BRIDGEWATER – The Bridgewater-Raritan High School softball team has designs on a special season, and, so far, the Panthers are certainly well on their way. Wednesday, against Union County power A.L. Johnson, the Panthers learned first hand that it’s the little things that separate the great teams from the champions.
Three ill-timed errors and some base-running miscues blemished what was otherwise another great performance by Bridgewater-Raritan, and the mistakes proved costly in a 3-2 setback at North Bridge Street Field against a team ranked in the Top 20 in the state.
And while a non-conference regular-season game isn’t going to do much to tarnish what’s, otherwise, been a great season, the Panthers got to see what happens when small mistakes are made in a game that has very little margin for error.
“They seem like they’re dejected, but in the grand scheme of things the game means nothing,” said Bridgewater-Raritan coach Sandy Baranowski, whose team fell to 11-3. “Hopefully we learn from it and grow from it. When you play a really good team like this, that can be the difference in the game. It can be a fine, little mistake. So we’ve got to clean it up.”
But while the negatives certainly hurt, there were also a ton of positives Wednesday, showing why B-R is enjoying one of its finest seasons in years.
The first came opening the game, as A.L. Johnson’s Gabey Zatho sent a long drive to deep center field that Katie Winchock did a phenomenal job running down. Bridgewater-Raritan turned in several more sparkling defensive plays Wednesday, but the mistakes shone brighter at the end of the day.
While junior Megan Zinn posted another terrific outing in the circle, allowing no earned runs on just six hits, walking none, hitting a batter and striking out five, her defense faltered in some big spots and cost the Panthers on the scoreboard.
After Zinn started the bottom of the first by slashing a triple down the right-field line but was stranded at third, the Crusaders (13-2) opened the scoring in the top of the second as a two-out error allowed Steph Donah to score.
The Panthers tied it in the bottom of the third as Alyssa Natale was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game with one out, went to second on a wild pitch, advanced on a grounder, and scored when Deanna Centi blasted one off the top of the center-field fence.
The Bridgewater-Raritan defense cost it again in the top of the fifth, as a two-out single by Zatho was misplayed in the outfield, allowing Mackenzie Purcell to score.
The Panthers tied it immediately, as Centi came through with another big hit, lining an RBI single to right field to plate Natale, who had led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. But, again, it was some poor fielding that led to the eventual winner, as ALJ ace Gianna Randazza reached on an error leading off the sixth inning and eventually scored on Stephanie’s Visconti’s one-out RBI single.
Still, considering the Panthers rapped out eight hits against the Randazza and hit several other balls very hard against a team that hasn’t lost a game to a New Jersey opponent, it should be easy to put this one behind them and focus on the confidence a good performance against a great team should give them going forward.
“We’re a tough team,” Baranowski said. “I’m not going to go home and be sick about it, because we played well and hit the ball against a good pitcher.”
“It gives us good piece of mind for the next time we play good teams like this,” Zinn said. “We’re really excited. We’re all a big family and we love to come out and play every game.”
Simeon Pincus can be reached at CourierSoftball@aol.com and on Twitter @SimeonPincus
For more softball coverage, check out the Inner Circle softball blog at http://blogs.MyCentralJersey.com/softball