MEDFORD – Shawnee pitcher Kaitlyn Konopka opened the bottom of the first inning on Tuesday with a two-run home run.
Later, she broke the school record for doubles in a season with her 14th.
Konopka finished off a complete-game win for the Renegades (13-7) as they rolled past visiting Olympic Conference rival Eastern, 8-3.
It was a banner day for the senior as her team avenged a 12-4 loss to the Vikings from April 28.
“It comes down to who wants to be the game-breaker on any given day,” Shawnee coach Paula Escudero said. “It’s K.K. right now.”
Escudero tells her team every day they have to score seven runs to have a shot.
It didn’t happen in Monday’s 12-2 loss to the Courier-Post’s No. 1 team, Washington Township.
The Renegades managed two hits in that contest. A day made all the difference.
“If we hit, we can hit,” Escudero said, seemingly channeling Yogi Berra on his 90th birthday. “When we don’t hit, we don’t hit.”
Konopka got the party started but Eastern answered right back.
About 24 hours before the Vikings (12-5) would face Egg Harbor Township in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs, Eastern managed two runs in the third.
Maddie Morano scored on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice when she beat a throw to the plate. Jess Heaton added an RBI single soon after.
Konopka’s record-breaking double led off the third for Shawnee. She came around to score soon after. But the American Division contest remained tight at 3-2.
Renegades’ nine-hole hitter Sammi Guarino loosened it up in the fourth.
Her two-run double to left-center field pushed the score to 5-2.
“I heard Mrs. E say ‘choke and poke,’ ” Guarino said. “The pitch was kinda high, I just told myself to stay down on it.”
Another run crossed in the fifth.
When the sixth rolled around, Connor Gilligan also reached a milestone.
Gilligan slammed Kaitlyn Gaynor’s offering to center field.
Morano’s first stride for the ball ended with her hands on her hips.
The blast soared over the fence for Gilligan’s 100th career RBI and increased the lead to 7-2.
“I waited for my pitch and it was 2-0 so I got aggressive,” Gilligan said. “When we play like we did today, we have one of the best offenses in South Jersey.”
AnnMarie Cooker socked a homer two batters later to further drive home Gilligan’s point.
The lead was more than enough for Konopka despite a late run in the seventh that rounded out the score.
“My confidence is there with my defense,” Konopka said. “I think we are prepared to win the tough games now.”
Both teams believe the tough Olympic schedule will help them in the 16-team Group 4 bracket.
The ninth-seeded Renegades travel to face No. 9 Toms River North on Friday at 4 p.m.
As the 11th-seeded Vikings collected their bags, the focus was on today’s matchup with No. 6 Egg Harbor.
Eastern moved up its first-round contest due to the school’s prom on Friday.
“We got some good work in today,” Eastern coach Laura Stagliano said. “We had some good at bats and hit the ball hard.
“This is better than practice I guess.”
Escudero hopes the Shawnee’s offense keeps churning out runs.
“If our bats are alive that day, we’re going to be dangerous,” Escudero said. “I think the playoffs are always different. Anything can happen.”
Mark Trible; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Player of the game: Shawnee pitcher Kaitlyn Konopka hit a two-run home run, broke the school record for doubles in a season and pitched a complete game.
- Play of the game: Renegades’ center fielder Sammi Guarino’s two-run standup double opened up Shawnee’s lead to 5-2 in the fourth.
- Well said: “If we hit, we can hit. When we don’t hit, we don’t hit.”— Shawnee coach Paula Escudero