EDISON – When they needed a big third out in the field to end a threat, they got it. When they needed a much-needed insurance run headed to the home seventh, they got that too on Wednesday afternoon.
The J.P. Stevens High School softball team got a big boost in the bottom of the first inning on a two-run home run from junior catcher Rebecca DiSerio that turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead and with the East Brunswick having the tying run on third base and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, freshman pitcher Ashley Lombardi buckled down and got a huge third strike on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
The Hawks defeated the Bears 3-2 to jump a half-game ahead of East Brunswick, even in the loss column, in the Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division with the win.
Tying run on third, 3-2 count, Ashley Lombardi gets the final out with a K. JP Stevens wins 3-2 pic.twitter.com/NMRUPk4P5S— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 29, 2015
It was East Brunswick’s first Red Division loss in 30 games since losing to J.P. Stevens early in the 2013 season. The teams will meet again on Saturday.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” said J.P. Stevens coach Krystle Petty of DiSerio, the team’s No. 3 hitter. “She’s one of our captains and she just leads us. No matter what’s going on — whether we’re winning by 10 or losing by 10, she has the same approach at the plate and she leads by example. She’s a vocal leader and that was huge to answer right back. It gave our pitcher and our team the confidence we needed.”
After East Brunswick (9-6) plated a run in the top of the first to jump ahead 1-0 on Amanda Wortham’s two-out bases loaded RBI single, DiSerio belted her second homer of the year to left-center as Gabby Young reached base on an error to also score on the shot.
Amanda Wortham with a bases loaded two out RBI infield single on a 3-2 pitch gives EB a 1-0 lead top 1 pic.twitter.com/4m55GezxH5— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 29, 2015
“I was going up there and was thinking ‘lets hit a single, lets start the game off strong, move Gabby over,’ and next thing I know it was over the fence and it was the best feeling ever that we’re now up 2-1 in the first inning,” DiSerio said.
Lombardi was just as big for J.P. Stevens (10-2) — after giving up Wortham’s RBI single in the first, Lombardi got a grounder to second as the Bears left the bases loaded.
In the third after walking Wortham with two outs to load the bases, Lombardi again escaped unharmed with a strikeout.
Ashley Lombardi with a three pitch strikeout to end a bases loaded EB threat in the third. 2-1 JPS headed to bot 3 pic.twitter.com/BvucugnEZo— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 29, 2015
East Brunswick stranded another pair in the fifth before stranding the tying run on third with two outs in the seventh.
“I am so proud of her,” Petty said of her freshman ace. “I’ve known her for years and she’s been coming to watch our games as her older sister (Amanda) was playing third, sitting right back here on the grass listening, watching, learning, and she’s a true ballplayer, in and out. For a freshman to come in there and get the strikeouts she did, keep the ball low, take care of some of their big hitters. They’re a very good hitting team and I’m really proud of her.”
No. 9 hitter Bri Zenderbaum plated the insurance run for the Hawks with two outs in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run double, with the run being unearned after an error two batters earlier.
A leadoff triple from Samantha Smalley and error on a ground ball brought the Bears within 3-2 before Lombardi retired the next three batters in order.
East Brunswick stranded 10 runners for the game.
“We got in position a few times to build some rallies and we were lacking that one hit,” East Brunswick coach Kevin Brady said. “Over the past number of years, we’ve always found a way to get that hit — we didn’t get that hit today.”
Lombardi struck out six, walked three, hit a batter, and gave up two earned runs on five hits for the win.
Her counterpart, Kaleigh Dwyer, struck out three, walked four, hit a batter, allowed five hits, and three runs, two of which were unearned.
Lauren Assennata hit two bloop singles for East Brunswick.
Staff writer Mike Becker: mbecker@GannettNJ.com