Pinelands Softball Team Edges Barnegat, Maintains Chase for Division Title

Apr 26, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands Regional’s Allyson Vezos delivers the game-winning hit with one out in the bottom of the seventh during the Wildcats’ 3-2 victory over Barnegat on April 21.

A thumping from Donovan Catholic and a heartbreaking loss to Jackson Liberty within a five-day span was about all the Pinelands Regional softball team needed to endure before it took a moment to evaluate its approach to the rest of the season.

“After Liberty, that was the first time our team had lost back-to-back games in four years, so it was tough on us,” said junior pitcher Jessie Rising, who limited Barnegat to four hits during a 3-2 victory on April 21. “At that point, our heads were not there and we needed to figure out what to do. So, we sat in the outfield and talked about how we fix this. And the truth is it really comes down to believing in ourselves.”

Ally Vezos believed in herself as she stared at a bases-loaded, one-out situation with the game tied, 2-2, in the bottom of the seventh inning. She delivered a single to left field to bring in Brianna Suralik with the game-winning run, after Suralik had walked and advanced to third base on back-to-back singles off the bats of Rising and senior Amanda Cusicanqui.

“The pressure was on, that’s for sure. But I like it like that,” said the sophomore first baseman, who ended up 2-for-3. “I don’t mind pressure situations because I usually do well under pressure. I just had to believe in myself.”

The Bengals (4-6) put both their runs on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning, when seniors Emma Lloyd and Tymera Crudup reached on infield singles and were brought in on a one-out single to left by senior catcher Roxy Urso. But other than a hit batsman in the fourth and a walk to Urso in the fifth, that’s all Rising gave up the rest of the way, giving the Wildcats (7-2) a chance to chip away at the lead.

Pinelands began doing so in the bottom of the fifth when freshman Jordan Leeds dropped a one-out bunt for a single, went to second on a fielder’s choice in which senior Nicole Burke was safe at first, advanced to third on a walk to Suralik and scored on Rising’s sacrifice fly to center field.

In the sixth, the Wildcats tied the game without a hit, as Vezos and senior Madison Dancisin led off the at-bat with walks and senior Cassidy Buckley put down an excellent sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, before Vezos came in to score on a groundout off the bat of senior Nicole Ramirez.

The Bengals threatened in the top of the seventh when a one-out error allowed Lloyd to reach second and Molly McEneaney swatted a two-out single to center. However, Dancisin’s relay to Vezos was delivered to Buckley at home in time to cut down the potential go-ahead run and give Pinelands a chance to win the game in its final at-bat.

“Softball is 90 percent mental,” Rising said. “And when it’s 2-2 in the seventh and you have a chance to win the game, it takes guts to get the job done. That’s when your love for the game really comes out. Today, it took all the girls on the team to make it happen. And that’s what it takes every day.”

The day earlier, tied 2-2 with Manchester heading into the sixth, the Wildcats had to find a way and did, coming home with a 5-2 victory after scoring once in the top of the sixth and twice in the top of the seventh. Rising allowed two hits and fanned 12 from the circle and went 3-for-4 at the plate. Burke, who slugged a solo home run, Dancisin, who tripled, Leeds, Ramirez and Suralik each contributed hits.

“We needed these two wins: today’s win against Barnegat and yesterday’s win against Manchester,” Vezos said. “We needed the wins so we could get into a rhythm again. And now that everybody on the team knows their roles, I think we’re going to do better.”

The Wildcats, who scorched Shore Conference Class B South foe Lakewood, 15-0, on Monday, April 24, head into a crucial divisional contest with Lacey on Friday, April 28, tied for second with Jackson Liberty, which edged Pinelands, 2-1, to start last week’s action. Both the Wildcats and Lions were 5-2 in the division as of Wednesday, with Donovan atop the division at 7-0.

“We have to come together, work really hard and win the rest of our games against B South teams,” Rising said. “Our division is a really tough division, and it’s going to take everything we have to try and win the division. We just have to come out to the field every day and want it.”

As for Barnegat, at 2-5 in B South, the Bengals have the opportunity to play a spoiler role within the division during the coming weeks, but following three straight losses after starting off 4-3 it’s more likely they’re going to start focusing on trying to get back to the .500 mark in time for the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff on May 14.

On April 20, the Bengals took a big hit from Lacey, losing a 10-0 contest during which Lacey senior hurler Chelsea Howard fired a three-hitter, giving up a pair of hits to Lloyd and one to Sydney McEneaney. Two days before, Barnegat lost, 7-3, to Point Pleasant Borough.

— David Biggy

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McDonald | May 04, 2017 09:49

Ah, another example of a decade of successes and improvements in the Pinelands High School sports programs. However, I still stubbornly maintain some hope that the school's administration practices will someday catch up, and even surpass the successes of its sporting programs.

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