With her team holding a 2-1 lead and batting in the bottom of the sixth inning Butler sophomore pitcher Larissa Spellman started to get anxious.
Eventually with two outs she turned away from the action on the field and started pacing, stopping every once and a while to go through her windup without the ball.
When she finally took the field the focus was evident as she completed a masterful complete game five hitter by striking out the side in the top of the seventh to propel the top-seeded Bulldogs into the Morris County Tournament finals with a 2-1 victory over fifth-seeded Montville.
“I wanted to finish it,” said Spellman of the pacing in the dugout. “I told them get me a run, but we didn’t get a run but that is fine. I mean 2-1 it was a great game.”
Spellman finished the game with 14 strikeouts though things didn’t start out smoothly as she walked two batters in the first inning, the only two she would walk all game.
Her head coach Brittany Marion never worried, as she decided not to go to the mound to talk to Spellman after the walks.
“I know how to read her at this point,” Marion said. “I think she just had to get into her groove and once she gets into that mindset where she is going to throw her pitches and they are not going to hit it that is what happens.”
As great as Spellman was, Montville senior Jess Shalongo matched her zero for zero until the fifth inning when the Bulldogs put up two, two-out unearned runs.
The first scored when Spellman’s older sister Ally beat out a groundball. Her ability to get down the line so quick caused a rushed throw that was low and allowed senior Wendy Maurer to score. Spellman would score a batter later when Larissa hit a high fly ball that dropped between a few Montville infielders giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
“She pitched her heart out today,” said Montville head coach John Immediato of Shalongo. “She did a really good job. It is what you expect of your senior who has been here before. It was a great effort.”
Montville got a run back in the top of the sixth when junior Jade Tungul smashed a home run to deep centerfield with two outs.
But even after the hard shot the Bulldogs never lost faith in their star ace in the circle.
“There were still nerves but I knew Larissa would have finished it for us either way,” Ally Spellman said of her sister.
The faith was rewarded as Spellman retired four of the last five batters to step to the plate to give her team the school’s first berth in the Morris County Tournament finals where they will face second-seeded Morris Knolls.
“We are so proud to be here and in all that we have accomplished this season and they are all happy,” Marion said of the historic run. “And that is all I can ask for, but we play to win.”
Ally Spellman put things a bit differently.
“This means everything,” she said. “This is the most incredible thing in the world.”