Senior catcher Sam Reilly was put in several big spots Thursday, and she came through every time.
Reilly delivered a pair of RBI, including the one that stuck as the game-winning run, and made sure Toms River North wasn’t hurt in any significant way by Wall’s Dani Petrone, as the Mariners pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Crimson Knights in a Shore Conference nondivisional contest that proved to be a great test for both squads.
With the win, the Mariners remained undefeated at 8-0.
“We wanted to keep this streak rolling into our Ocean County Tournament game on Saturday,” said Reilly, who went 2-for-3. “This was an important win for us, because Wall’s a great team and we had to really buckle down.”
North set the tone early, scoring twice in the first inning. With Riley Vuyovich on second after singling and advancing on a groundout, Brielle Perrotta reached on an error and Taylor Ward brought in Vuyovich with a single to right field. Perrotta then scored on a single to right by Amanda Joyce to make it 2-0.
In the third, the Mariners extended their lead to three when Sam Salomon started off the at-bat with a single to left, followed by Chrissy Ribaudo reaching on a fielder’s choice and Salomon safely sliding in at second, before Salomon raced home on a single down the left-field line by Reilly.
Reilly’s smarts really came into play during the bottom of the second. After Amanda Pringle singled to right-center and Casey DeSarno replaced her on the bases by hitting into a fielder’s choice, Jen Guerriero walked, as did Jackie Howarth, loading the bases for Petrone, who has 40 career homers.
But Reilly, who calls Ashley Hussey’s pitches behind the plate, kept all the pitches off the outside corner of the plate, leading to an RBI walk for Petrone but possibly preventing a much bigger inning. Emily Mowen then reached on an error, bringing in Wall’s second run but the Mariners escaped with a one-run lead.
“Dani’s a great hitter,” Reilly said. “You have to be on your toes with her or she can hurt you. You have to respect her there.”
After Wall (6-1) squandered an opportunity to score again in the third — partly because of a fine play made by Ward on a slow grounder to short which she scooped up and fired to Reilly at the plate to cut down the lead runner — the game remained a one-run contest until the top of the sixth, when Ribaudo doubled to left-center with one out and scored on Reilly’s single to left two pitches later.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Crimson Knights cut the lead back to one when Petrone walked a second time and courtesy runner Carly Layton scored on a double to left-center by Colleen Brennan, but Hussey got Katie Wingel to pop up to first to end the inning and held Wall scoreless in the seventh.
Hussey ended up striking out four and holding the Crimson Knights to five hits. Pringle finished 2-for-4, as did Joyce.
“We just have to keep playing hard and playing our game, and good things are going to keep happening,” Reilly said. “We want to keep setting the tone in every game.”