Up and down, back and forth went the Lower Sussex Major League “Monkeys” All-Stars against Woodbridge in a 9-7 winning effort on July 5.
Lower Sussex started the game off hot by nailing Woodbridge for an inning-ending double play that thwarted a golden scoring opportunity. Woodbridge had two runners in scoring position but a great catch and throw by Michelle Murray was caught by covering shortstop Chelsea Rogers, who applied the force out.
Rogers then — like any good leadoff hitter — showed great patience in the batter’s box and drew a walk, only to score after advancing on a series of past pitches and poor throws.
She showed great instinct and awareness running the bases and was able to give her team a 1-0 lead. She also scored another heads-up run in the bottom of the third inning, when the pitcher turned her back on Rogers when she was at third base.
“We’re very aggressive on the bases because that’s where most of your runs come from,” said Head Coach Anthony Rogers.
With one out, third-baseman Madeline Garrett then drove a ball deep to centerfield for a triple, giving the Lower Sussex Monkeys another scoring opportunity. Catcher Miranda Seward knocked her in on a RBI fielder’s choice for Lower Sussex’s final run of the inning, to put them ahead 2-0.
Seward played a solid game behind the plate, as well, by throwing out three would-be base stealers (two in the top of the third and one in top of the sixth inning) and made a clutch tag at home to stop Woodbridge from scoring on a steal from third, to maintain the 3-2 lead.
Lower Sussex kept the momentum going in the top of the second inning by recording three quick outs. Woodbridge’s lone hit of the inning was nullified by an inning-ending strikeout by starting pitcher Carleigh Walter.
The girls were so focused that they tried to tag out a Woodbridge runner who decided to run to third despite having earned the final out.
Walter (1-0) pitched a complete game for the victory while walking five, allowing three hits for four earned runs and striking out six.
“Carleigh did a great job pitching the whole game,” said Rogers. “She scattered a few in those middle innings but we won anyway.”
Woodbridge scored all their runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, after being dominated by Lower Sussex.
Though Lower Sussex only gave up two runs in the top of the forth inning, it could have been worse had a couple of clutch plays not been made.
Murray backed up a poor throw to first on a lead-off single, which most definitely would’ve meant extra bases had she not been there. Seward also made a leaping stop to prevent the ball from passing, which would’ve allowed Woodbridge’s runners to advance.
The Monkeys would tack on four more runs in the bottom of the fourth on some efficient hitting by first-baseman Seward, Brooke Rogers, centerfielder Amanda Horton, pinch-hitter Schylar Jones and Walter.
Seward and Rogers started it off by hitting back-to-back singles, and they both advanced an extra base due to a poor throw on a Rogers hit. Seward scored on a past pitch and again following Horton’s infield single. Jones knocked in Rogers and Horton for a two-RBI triple, pushing the lead to 6-2.
Walter knocked in the next run on a fielder’s choice to give them a 7-2 lead going into the fifth inning.
Woodbridge didn’t lie down, despite the recent failures and they were able to counter Lower Sussex’s big inning with one of their own. Woodbridge posted four runs to pull within a run of the lead with time running out.
“They scored a mess of runs there and just because we were winning our girls thought that the game was over,” said Rogers. “The hardest thing to do is to keep the girl’s heads in the game for the whole game.”
From there, the lead teetered and Lower Sussex almost gave away their tournament-opening game.
Woodbridge was able to tie the game in the top of the sixth on a RBI-double, but Lower Sussex would get the last at-bat and winning runs.
Brooke Rogers lead off the sixth by beating a throw on an infield hit, which was followed by a Murray bunt-single that allowed the runners to move because the throw bounced off the runner.
Horton loaded the bases with another bunt-single, which set the stage for a dramatic ending.
The sky began to fall as leftfielder Jordan Balasus stepped up to the plate, and fans were eager to see the game finish before the rain let loose.
Balasus didn’t make the fans wait long as she hit a two-RBI double to win the game.
“Jordan came through with a big hit for us,” said Rogers. “She’s a good hitter and that’s why she deserves to be on this team.”
Rogers noted that great base running and their strong defense was the key to the game and to be successful in the tournament — they will need similar performances.
“Our pitching might not be as good as other teams but we have a very strong defense and if we play like we did tonight then we can hang with anybody,” said Rogers.