GEORGETOWN – It ain’t over till it’s over.
Legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra coined that phrase, and it applies just as well to softball. Especially on Tuesday, when Sussex Tech rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to stun Sussex Central 7-6 in the season opener for both teams.
“It’s a great springboard game for us, absolutely,” Ravens coach John Marvel said. “It just ignites everybody. There was a lot of excitement, a lot of kids got in the game, and everybody contributed.”
Sussex Tech trailed 6-1 when Jenna Calloway singled and Shannon Lord doubled to open the bottom of the seventh. The Golden Knights decided to relieve starting pitcher Hayley McCabe with Mika Walker, but the Ravens kept their rally going.
Pinch-hitter Alyssa Collins walked to load the bases. After a strikeout, pinch-hitter Laurie Wroten walked to drive in a run and Nicole Hovatter singled up the middle to plate another run.
Then Madison Watson came up with the big hit, a three-run triple to center to tie the game at 6.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Watson said. “I just had to get one hit to drive all the runs in. … We just had to relax and really buckle down and get good hits.”
Taylor Collins was walked intentionally to put runners at the corners, and Rylee Shockley came to the plate knowing a hit would likely win the game. The junior responded with a ground ball to deep short that went without a play, and Watson scampered home with the winning run.
“I was just thinking hit the ball, do something to put the ball in play so the run could come in somehow,” Shockley said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest hit, but just putting the ball in play worked.”
Sussex Tech took a 1-0 lead in the second when Calloway doubled in Shockley, who had singled. But the middle innings belonged to the Golden Knights.
Taylor Evick walked to open the top of the fourth, and Morgan Burton laced a one-hop double off the fence in center field. Then McCabe cleared that 8-foot fence with a three-run homer to give Sussex Central a 3-1 lead.
Brooke Stoeckel opened the fifth with a windblown pop fly that fell between the shortstop and left fielder for a double. Evick was hit by a pitch, and the Golden Knights faked a bunt and attempted a double steal that turned out even better when a throw sailed into left field, allowing both runners to score.
Then Burton followed with a drive that took full advantage of a stiff tailwind. The solo shot cleared the fence in straightaway center and landed on a Jeep to push Sussex Central’s lead to 6-1.
“We had some things go on that could have disappointed us and really taken the air out for the entire game,” Marvel said. “But the girls have a lot of character, and they stayed at it, got themselves into position, and then came through when they had the opportunity.”
Sussex Tech left fielder Brooke Ward threw out a runner at the plate later in the fifth, and Taylor Collins made a diving catch on a foul pop in the seventh.
The Ravens, who were 10-8 and lost to Delaware Military Academy in the first round of the state tournament last season, got two hits each from Hovatter, Calloway and Lord. The Golden Knights, 8-10 last year, got two hits from Burton, McCabe and Mariah Rogers.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ