Pinelands Regional Softball Team Comes From Behind to Beat Central in Opener

Apr 04, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands Regional's Jordan Leeds slides into home plate ahead of the tag during the Wildcats' 6-5, comeback victory against Central Regional on March 31.

In two of her previous three at-bats on March 31, Brianna Suralik’s swing didn’t look too pretty as she softly lined out to first base and waved at strike three. And even though she had singled in the fifth inning, it wasn’t her best at-bat. But the senior delivered in a big way in the bottom of the seventh, when she not only hit a sharp single to left field, but also drove in the tying runs and set up senior Madison Hawkins for the game-winner.

“Leader-wise, I knew I had to step up, and I wanted to get a win for us in our opening game,” Suralik said following the Pinelands Regional softball team’s 6-5 victory over Central Regional. “I didn’t want to let everyone down.”

To that point, the Wildcats looked every bit like a team that had lost some players to graduation last season, after they captured the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III championship. It took them a while to get going, falling behind the Golden Eagles, 5-0, during the first 2½ innings.

“No matter what the scoreboard said, I had to do my job and somehow get us back in the game,” said senior pitcher Jessie Rising, the Wildcats’ go-to girl in the circle the past two seasons. “The first couple innings, I wasn’t getting my job done, which led to us not getting the job done. I didn’t have it today, but I had to find a way to overcome the adversity. I knew I had to take charge in some way.”

After Central managed five runs on four hits and an error in the top of the third, Rising absolutely did her job the rest of the way, giving up just an infield single in the sixth while fanning five and facing the minimum of 12 batters through the final four innings.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats staged their comeback, which started by scoring three runs in the bottom of the third. After sophomore outfielder Adrianna Dancisin was hit by a pitch and stole second, junior catcher Teresa Hudson singled to left, and sophomore shortstop Jordan Leeds reached on an error during a bunt attempt to load the bases for Rising.

Central walked Rising on four pitches to bring in the Wildcats’ first run, and junior third baseman Ally Vezos made the Golden Eagles pay for it, singling into left to bring in Hudson and Leeds to cut the deficit to two. Suralik then singled to re-load the bases, but a grounder off the bat of Hawkins led to a strange interference call by the umpires, and Central found a way out of the inning holding the two-run lead.

Still trailing into the bottom of the seventh, Hudson led off with a double that one-hopped the fence in left, before Rising grounded into a fielder’s choice in which Hudson got caught in a rundown but safely dove back into second base. After Vezos reached on an error, Suralik singled to knot the score at 5-5, before Hawkins singled into right-center field to score Vezos from second for the win.

“I think it was a good thing for us to taste that adversity early in the season,” Rising said. “It should teach us some lessons. And for me, personally, it taught me something. And it’s a really good sign that we didn’t just roll over. It could have been easy for us to do that, but we stuck together and proved that we’re going to be a team that fights to the end.”

Suralik said the team came into the game a bit lackadaisical.

“Mentality-wise, I don’t think we were 100 percent in at the start of the game,” she said. “I don’t know if it was nerves or something else, but we weren’t playing well at all. And then I think we got a little scared once they scored their runs. We weren’t ready for it. But we bounced back and kept battling. We showed a lot in that last inning.”

Now, head coach Keith Lowe is hoping that effort he saw later in the team’s opener transfers itself into the rest of the season, as the Wildcats seek to return to the section final.

“Usually after the game, I break things down into what we did well and what we didn’t do well,” Lowe said. “Besides saying, ‘Happy Easter!’ the thing I talked about most was that we can’t go through the motions for innings two, three, four and five and then turn it on in the sixth and seventh. We’re not going win consistently if we do that. We have to work hard mentally as much as physically – every inning, every pitch, every at-bat.”

Rising, who recorded the 500th strikeout of her career during the contest, finished with 10 strikeouts while giving up six hits and a walk.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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