GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The Richard Stockton College softball team didn't celebrate following its doubleheader losses to Montclair State University on Saturday, but the Ospreys felt good about the statement they had made.
Stockton stayed competitive throughout and lost 1-0 and 2-0 to powerful Montclair (16-0),which is the top-ranked team in NCAA Division III by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Stockton (13-3) is unranked. The games, both of which were seven innings, were the first two New Jersey Athletic Conference contests for both teams this season.
Stockton pitcher Michelle Pietrocola (7-1) took her first loss of the season in Game 1 as she gave up four hits, walked five and struck out six. Montclair's Tara Petrucelli homered to left field in the fourth inning for the game's only run.
Brittany Ksiezopolski (5-2) pitched for the Ospreys in the second game and allowed eight hits while striking out five and walking none.
"We fought hard against the best team in the country, and it was one of the best performances by our pitchers this year, if not the best," Stockton coach Val Julien said. "We made some incredibly strong and crisp plays in the field. Montcliar did a lot of things right, but that's what No. 1 teams do."
The Ospreys faced Montclair right-handed pitching ace Alex Hill all 14 innings. Hill fired a one-hitter in Game 1 and yielded three hits in the second game. She used a lot of arm motion with both her left and right in her delivery, striking out 12 in the first game and five in the second.
The strong showing against the unbeaten, top-ranked team in the country could boost the Ospreys' profile.
"I'm hoping we get ranked soon, but we know what we have to do," Julien said. "We have to get a little better against some of the best teams in the country, and the NJAC has some of the best. We faced one of the best pitchers in the country today, if not the best."
Nicole Scanlon's single to right in the fourth inning was Stockton's only hit in the first game, and it led to the Ospreys' best chance. Hill hit Arielle Cooke, the next batter, with a pitch. Stockton's Grace Long, an Egg Harbor Township graduate, worked a 3-2 count but then struck out swinging to end the inning.
Rachel Forte, out of Vineland High School, reached on an error for the Ospreys in the sixth when she hit a hard grounder that went through the second baseman's legs. Stephanie Darrow ran for Forte but was thrown out trying to steal.
"Stockton is an excellent team and we knew they would be a challenge," Montclair coach Anita Kubicka said. "Every pitch and at-bat mattered today. Our biggest problem was a lack of hitting. Our hitting was very off today, but that was mostly due to the Stockton pitchers. We have some very good hitters who looked silly today. Some weird things happened, but we stepped up and made the plays."
The Red Hawks touched Ksiezopolski for single runs in the second and seventh inning of Game 2. Hill and teammate Alisha Cumberton each had two hits and an run.
Stockton's Jessica Goncalves, Dominique Dorris and Nicole Chabak each had a hit.
Dorris' single to left in the fourth inning was followed by Long's sacrifice bunt, which put pinch-runner Darrow on second. Forte was hit by a pitch, but Chabak's flyout to right was the final out.
"Today shows what we can do," said Long, a 21-year-old junior. "We were picked to be seventh in the conference (in the preseason NJAC coaches poll), but we showed we're ready to play."
Goncalves, 21, a senior center fielder and leadoff hitter from Union, said, "They're a great team, but we held them, and we want to keep building off what we've done so far. We're going to get better. I have complete faith in everyone."
Stockton is scheduled to host a doubleheader with The College of New Jersey (14-4) at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Contact Guy Gargan:
Montclair State 000 100 0-1 4 1
Richard Stockton 000 000 0-0 1 1
WP-Hill 12k (12-0). LP-Pietrocola 6k (7-1).
Montclair State 010 000 1-2 8 0
Richard Stockton 000 000 0-0 3 2
WP-Hill 5k (13-0). LP-Ksiezopolski 5k (5-2).
Records-Montclair 16-0; Stockton 13-3.