SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Making her varsity debut in the season opener for the J.P. Stevens High School softball team, freshman pitcher Ashley Lombardi got into a couple of jams with two runners on in the second and third innings against South Brunswick on Thursday.
Lombardi though worked through those troubling times and got herself out of some sticky situations — in the second after a walk and error put runners on second and third with no outs, the freshman retired the next three batters in order on a pop up to the catcher, strikeout, and groundout to second.
In the third after allowing a game-tying two-out RBI single to South Brunswick cleanup hitter Nicole Majewski, Lombardi induced a groundout to short with runners on the corners as from that point forward she was on-point.
Lombardi retired eight straight batters and 11 of 12 after the RBI single as she allowed only one hit the rest of the way, a light infield single to Majewski, and didn’t let a ball get hit out of the infield as she fired a three-hitter and the Hawks took the lead in the fifth and tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh to score a 4-1 win against the Vikings in the opener for both teams.
“I’m extremely impressed with today’s performance and I’m really proud of my team,” J.P. Stevens fifth-year coach Krystle Petty said. “I think the girls pulled together, I think we settled in nicely, and I think we just never said die and kept working hard. I’m really proud of Ashley and our catcher Rebecca DiSerio, who’s a junior, for just help keeping her calm and calling a good game, and working together with her. I feel like Ashley got stronger as the game went on, which is something as a coach I’m really excited about.”
Lombardi allowed the one earned run on three hits while striking out six and walking four.
“At the beginning I was a little shaky trying to get used to the pitches and the mound, but as the team momentum gained I got stronger and began throwing strikes and more accuracy,” Lombardi said. “I feel like our team just came together with that win. We played awesome defense, we came put with at-bats last inning, scoring some runs, and it really brought me up and helped me pitch better.”
After stranding six runners through the first four innings and having only one run to show for it, DiSerio’s third inning RBI double that put J.P. Stevens ahead 1-0 at the time, the Hawks were able to break through in the top of the fifth and regain the lead on a one-out RBI double off the bat of shortstop Julie Siecienski.
They then tacked on two important insurance runs in the seventh on an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of senior third baseman Amanda Lombari, Ashley’s older sister, and an RBI single from Siecinski, both with one out as Kayla Smith and DiSerio scored after reaching on hits.
“Add on, keep tacking on,” Petty said. “In the GMC in general, you let a team hang on and you keep the game too close, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. You can get bit like that. It’s not over till it’s over and we don’t want to stop attacking till it’s over and I’m proud that we capitalized that.”
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DiSerio and Siecinski both collected two hits apiece for the Hawks while Majewski had two of South Brunswick’s three hits on the day.
Majewski took the loss for South Brunswick after allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on four hits over the final four innings after coming on in relief of Leann Panconi, who surrendered an earned run on two hits over the first three innings.
J.P. Stevens will look to carry this early season momentum as they’ll play crosstown rival Edison on Saturday before heading off to Disney World next week during their Spring Break — South Brunswick ironically just returned from a Spring Break trip to Disney.
“A lot of team chemistry,” Petty said. “Hopefully we’ll roll into Disney 2-0 and that will be a lot of fun down there to represent the GMC and our school down in Florida.”
Staff writer Mike Becker: email@example.com