Local Softball Squads Fall Short of Regional Qualification at Babe Ruth State Tourney

Jul 04, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Waretown third baseman Ally Westman fires to first base for an out in the Thunder’s semifinals contest against New Egypt during the Babe Ruth Southern New Jersey state tournament on June 30.

The last time the Waretown Thunder had a legitimate regional contender as a 16-and-under softball team, most of the girls playing in the Babe Ruth Southern New Jersey state tournament on July 1 were in diapers. That’s an important note considering most of the current Thunder crew are younger than 15.

“I coached most of these girls in rec ball when they were 6, and then they all went their separate ways,” said Mark Houck, whose squad managed to reach the loser-bracket final before being knocked out of the double-elimination tourney by Vineland in a 12-4 contest in Sunday’s blistering heat. “When I came back to coach the 14-and-under team, they all came back to play. They played as a 14-and-under team this season, and they were kicking butt. Here in the Babe Ruth tournament, we decided to play up a division to give them the experience.”

Despite falling short of reaching the state final and making their way to the Middle Atlantic Regional tourney slated for later this week, the 11 girls who made up this year’s Waretown squad definitely gained valuable experience.

“We made some errors and didn’t have as much offense as we would have liked, but we played well,” said Nettie Campanile, one of the team’s outfielders. “We’re young and we have a lot to learn about this level of softball. We just have to work harder and get better, but we’ll be back next year and we’ll go farther.”

Waretown blew through Camden in the quarterfinals, scoring an 18-6 victory, and looked ready to take on a much more experienced New Egypt team in the semifinals. In the top of the first, Izzie Kane whacked a one-out single and stole second to give the Thunder an opportunity to grab the initial lead. But Kane was tossed out trying to swipe third before Alyssa Houck delivered a single to center field. Waretown went into the dugout without a run, and New Egypt scored three times in the bottom of the inning.

In the second, Kaylee Machnowski walked with two outs, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch, but again the Thunder failed to capitalize, which would have kept them in the game, at least temporarily. New Egypt scored four times in the bottom of the second to grab control, and Waretown managed only a few walks the rest of the way, ultimately falling ,11-0.

Unfortunately, in the loser-bracket final Waretown ran into a hot Vineland crew, which had blitzed Camden in the first round, then bounced Millville, 9-6, in the loser-bracket semifinal before taking on the Thunder late Sunday morning. Waretown scored four but couldn’t muster enough offense to match Vineland’s firepower.

“We made too many errors,” said Courtney Shreier, the team’s second baseman. “But we were here. We got this far, and it was a good experience for us. We didn’t get to the next step, but we won our district tournament and had fun. We did our best. We’re a competitive team, but we still need more experience.”

And for this bunch of players, seeing a new level of softball and learning from it will be key to what the head coach hopes leads to further success.

“They saw real softball and real pitching, and that’s going to help them for next year,” Houck said. “This was a rec team playing in a higher level tournament. It was a big step for them, and we were playing on the last day of the state tournament. Even down by 9 in our last at-bat, our girls were cheering and playing their best. All I wanted was 100 percent. Next year is our year.”

Unfortunately, Waretown wasn’t the only squad bounced prior to qualifying for the region tournament. The Barnegat 12-and-under squad reached the loser-bracket final as well, but lost to Egg Harbor Township Blue, 10-5. In the first round, Barnegat knocked off Ventnor, 18-7, before ousting Egg Harbor Orange, 10-0, in the quarterfinals. Hamilton, the eventual champion, sent Barnegat into the loser bracket with a 10-0 win in the semifinals.

In the 10-and-under bracket, Pinelands lost its opening contest, 15-7, to Galloway, before defeating New Egypt in a loser-bracket first-round game, then got bounced by Barnegat, 17-16. Barnegat advanced to the loser-bracket semifinal before getting bounced by Egg Harbor, 11-7.

In the 8-and-under bracket, Stafford won its first-round clash with Egg Harbor, 7-4, then was sent to the loser bracket following a 13-3 loss to Upper Freehold. In the loser-bracket semis, Stafford’s run ended with a loss to Mays Landing.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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