SOUTH PLAINFIELD – Through 4 1/2 innings it was a relatively ho-hum 4-0 game between the Monroe and South Plainfield High School softball teams, the only two unbeaten teams left in Middlesex County.
Then in the bottom of the fifth a sequence of utter craziness began and seemingly didn’t want to end.
South Plainfield coach Don Panzarella, in his 34th season, said he had never seen anything like it.
Trailing 4-0 and with just two hits to its name entering the bottom of the fifth, South Plainfield sent 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run fifth, scored a run in the sixth to tie the game after Monroe had put up four runs in the top half of the sixth, and answered Monroe’s four-run top of the seventh inning with a five-run home seventh. Senior second baseman Holly DeLair hit a game-winning walk-off sacrifice fly with one out to left that easily scored Jennifer Grasso from third for the winning run as South Plainfield came away with a wild 13-12 victory at Coach Panzarella Field.
“I can’t believe this game,” Panzarella said. “I really can’t.”
“Somebody said to me this game could be a 13-12, a 14-13 (type game) — I didn’t think so. Two teams. We both hit.”
Holly DeLair game-winning sac fly wins it for South Plainfield 13-12. A five run home seventh for the Tigers! pic.twitter.com/cnR5ZCambh— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 15, 2015
“A good high school game,” said Monroe coach Keith Hudak, whose team was outhit 15-11. “In the beginning of the game I thought nobody wanted to win. And then from the fifth inning on neither team would lose, so it was good.”
Tied 8-8 heading to the seventh, Monroe (4-1) erupted for four runs as its No. 8 and 9 hitters drew a pair of one-out walks, senior shortstop Casey Schieda hit a go-ahead RBI single with two outs, and senior third baseman Cindy Foresta followed with a three-run home run to right-center that put the Falcons ahead 12-8 heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Casey Schieda two-out RBI single in the top 7 puts Monroe ahead 9-8 pic.twitter.com/bx3p1gS02U— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 15, 2015
The first six batters though reached base for South Plainfield (9-0) to start the inning — Camryn Schaeffer and Gina Tartza drew walks and then Katherine Vill, Naomi Nieves, Grasso, and Caity Hughes hit consecutive singles, as Hughes’ hit to the right side pulled the Tigers within 12-11 with no outs.
Monroe pitcher Glorianna Perrotte, who went the first five innings before getting pulled for Nicole Van Dzura to start the sixth and re-entered in the seventh to face Hughes, got the next batter, Meghan Hughes, to fly out to second for the first out.
But No. 3 hitter Caroline Ratti got plunked in the back for the second time to score the tying run and then the next batter, DeLair, hit the sacrifice fly deep enough to left to plate the winning run.
Caroline Ratti hit in the back brings in tying run with one out! pic.twitter.com/dkvPX3Y0xI— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 15, 2015
“Not a good hit, but it worked. It did its job so I’m ok” with it,” said DeLair, who broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth with a key bases clearing two-out double that gave South Plainfield a 5-4 lead at the time and finished with four RBI.
Monroe appeared poised to have a big first inning as its first four batters reached on a pair of walks, a single to load the bases, and another walk to bring home a run but managed only two runs in the inning as South Plainfield pitcher Katherine Vill got consecutive 6-5 fielder’s choices before getting a fly out to right for the third out.
The Falcons tacked on a run in both the second and fourth innings on an RBI single and RBI groundout, both from Foresta, as she finished 4-for-5 with 6 RBI and two runs.
“4-0, we didn’t take full advantage of a situation we had in those early innings,” Hudak said. “Left a lot of runners on base. Came back — you get that lead, you hope you could hold it. But they’re a good ball club, they hit the ball well.”
South Plainfield then exploded for the seven-run fifth inning that turned the tables.
Holly DeLair 3-run bases loaded double with two outs in the bottom of the fifth gives South Plainfield a 5-4 lead. pic.twitter.com/T5MHYJqTca— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 15, 2015
“I think in the beginning of the game everybody was just kind of really nervous,” DeLair said. “We knew coming in that we were undefeated, they were undefeated, and that we’re both really good. I think it was just the nerves and then once we settled in we realized we got this, the bats started coming around, and we started hitting.”
Every South Plainfield starter had at least one hit, including three-hit efforts from Caity Hughes and Vill and two hits each from Tartza, Nieves, and Grasso.
Schieda, Sarah McGrath, and Angela Marzurkiewicz all had two hits apiece for Monroe.
Entering the game Monroe had outscored its four opponents 76-3 while South Plainfield had outscored its opposition 107-17 in eight games.
“The hitting is unbelievable right now — both teams,” Panzarella said. “You always say I don’t think it can continue, but they don’t get cheated. Both teams. They swing the bat. It’s going to be a good end of the year in this conference. I’m excited — I mean I’m nervous right now, but I’m excited.”
Staff writer Mike Becker: mbecker@GannettNJ.com