The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)
Young Irish done in by one big swing
LAWRENCE » It was a classic example of how it’s not how many hits you have, but rather what you do with the ones you get.
In a bit of an oddity, the St. Thomas Aquinas softball team managed to string its only three hits of the game in a row against freshman ace Rylee Michalak and the result was a 3-2 win for the Middlesex County club over Notre Dame in the South Jersey Parochial A semifnals.
It was a harsh way to go for a very young Notre Dame team (17-2) that started six freshmen, but nobody ever said playoff softball was fair.
“It was a tough loss, that’s for sure,” said Notre Dame coach Marty Schafer. “I thought that one girl was out at first, but we had our chances and didn’t take advantage of them. We didn’t get the big hit.”
St. Thomas Aquinas sure did when Aamori Petterson launched a mammoth threerun home run over the left field fence in the fourth inning. This came after two singles, including one on a bang-bang play, by pitcher Paige Tidaback and Mary-Kate Murray had opened the inning.
Other than this two or so minute stretch of the game, Michalak was outstanding. In addition to throwing a three-hitter, Michalak struck out seven. She did walk the first two St. Thomas Aquinas batters in the sixth, but slammed the door with a couple of grounders and routine fly ball to left field.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, collected
seven hits off the lefty Tidaback, who pitches for Dave Wheeler’s Nightmare organization in the summer.
The biggest Notre Dame hit came right away in the first inning when standout senior catcher Emily Reinstein ripped a two-out RBI triple in the right center to gap to drive in Ashley Giampolo, who had walked.
Unfortunately, for Notre Dame, this was its only clutch hit of the afternoon. Notre Dame’s second run came in the third and was a complete gift when the visitors committed two throwing errors on the same play after Giampolo had reached on a one-out single.
Notre Dame did get three hits from Reinstein in her final game in an Irish uniform and Emma Marchese had two, but it wasn’t enough against as Tidaback kept working the outside corner with a screw ball and took advantage of the fact the home plate umpire was generous when it came to calling high pitches strikes.
Notre Dame’s best chance to tie the score came late in the game can when Giampolo hit a fly ball to left and was able to race all the way to third when it was dropped for an error.
A pop up and a strikeout,
however, ended that threat and the Irish were also unable to take advantage of having a runner on second with one out in the seventh following the third hit of the game by Reinstein. Tidaback got out of that jam with the last two of her eight strikeouts.
Despite the loss, Notre Dame can feel really got about its season. It had just two losses and compiled 17 wins while also capturing the Colonial Valley Conference Tournament.
“We had this great group of freshman, but it was also an outstanding group of seniors,” said Schafer. “It was the closest group of seniors we’ve had since I’ve been here and they made a tremendous contribution to the program.
All three of this seniors will be playing in college next year with Reinstein going to Stony Brook, Giampolo headed to Sienna and Sarah Dunn to continue her softball career at Ursinus.
St. Thomas Aquinas, meanwhile, will now play Donovan Catholic in the South Jersey final.
STA (22-2) 000 300 0 — 3 3 3 Notre Dame (17-2) 101 000 0 — 2 7 0 WP-Tidaback. LP-Michalak. 3B-Reinstein (ND). HR-Patterson (STA). RBIs: STA-Patterson 3. ND-Reinstein.