MONTGOMERY – Freshman Robin McCabe enjoyed the thrill of her first varsity victory Monday, tossing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Watchung Hills High School softball team. Tuesday, the young righty got the ball for her first varsity start and continued to impress.
McCabe allowed just one run on six hits, walked three and struck out eight, and table setters Kayla Schinik and Tina Zoppi each posted three hits as part of a 12-hit attack, and the Warriors handled Montgomery 10-1 in a Skyland Conference crossover game.
“I’m not surprised,” said Watchung Hills coach Mike D’Alessandro, who now has the luxury of two very capable hurlers, as McCabe joins junior ace Alyssa Murray. “She showed us a whole lot in the preseason and she was ready for a start. She did a great job in relief yesterday.”
“They’re all there for me, like a second family,” said McCabe, crediting her teammates and Murray for providing her the safety net that’s invaluable to a young player and allowing her to display the poise of a veteran. “It’s really nice to have supportive people behind me. And Alyssa is there for me, too, just like I was there for her (Monday). And coach already knows what I can do, so it’s not like I need to show anything to anyone else, except the other team.”
McCabe’s best display of poise beyond her years came in the fourth inning. After ringing up the leadoff hitter for the first out, three straight hits loaded the bases before Demitria Kitrinos drew a walk to drive in Berna McCormick with a run. But instead of losing focus like a lot of rookies might, McCabe bore down beautifully, getting back-to-back strikeouts to escape further damage.
“What I really liked is she got into a couple of tough situations and she showed a lot of poise to get out of it,” D’Alessandro said. “That showed me a lot, and that’s what I like to see with my young players. Let me see what you got when you get in a tough situation. So I think she’s acclimated to the varsity now.”
“I have been in that situation before, you just need to just take your time and pitch,” McCabe said. “You don’t really have to think about anyone else except you and the catcher.”
While McCabe handled Montgomery’s attack, Watchung Hills’ offense wasted no time in going to work, and it started at the top of the order. The Warriors scored three times in the first inning, sparked by slap singles by Schinik and Zoppi, and added two more in the second with the speedy duo notching back-to-back hits with one out.
A leadoff double by Murray, who served as the designated hitter Tuesday, then started a three-run outburst in the third, before Watchung Hills capped it with two runs in the top of the seventh.
For the game, Schinik posted three hits, reaching on speed-inspired errors in her two other at-bats, she stole three bases, scored two runs and drove in two more. Zoppi also notched three hits, swiped a base and scored two runs, forcing two more errors thanks to her speed on the bases.
“I love the speed game,” said D’Alessandro, whose lineup also features plenty of pop. “I love what we have in those two and I think that’s always going to be a weapon. Speed doesn’t slump, they get on base a lot and then we can do a lot of things. And if a team is not prepared for speed, it does put a lot of pressure on them. You so tend to see the ball getting thrown around a little more or base not being covered.”
For Montgomery, which started its season 4-0, Tuesday’s marked its second straight loss after being blanked by North Hunterdon on Monday. Still, the Cougars are a talented team and showed plenty of positives, including hitting several balls hard but right at people Tuesday. Now, it’s now a matter of being able to put it together and not letting mistakes snowball, especially against the tougher competition on the schedule.
“I have the confidence in them, and I told them that,” said Montgomery coach Ken DiGraziano, who watched his team commit seven defensive miscues Tuesday. “I know they’re good players, but we made mistakes. We’ve got to forget about it and go back to thinking like champions and finding ways to win instead of looking for excuses why we’re losing.”
Simeon Pincus can be reached at CourierSoftball@aol.com and on Twitter @SimeonPincus
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