HAMMONTON - Raelynn Genovese got things started for the Hammonton High School softball team with a long home run against Eastern Regional in the Hammonton Invitational quarterfinals Sunday.
Genovese nearly ended the game seven innings later with a bunt on a suicide squeeze in the top of the eighth.
But Eastern bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the inning to win 4-3 and knock the hosts out of their own tournament for a second straight season.
"After losing to them last year, it was a tough loss," Genovese said. "But we battled. We did everything we could.
"I'm not disappointed. I mean, (it's no fun) to lose, but we pulled it out together as a team."
Eastern is ranked No. 2 in The Press Elite 11 this week.
Hammonton played without two infield starters, first baseman Skyler Wylie and Rider University-bound shortstop Morgan DiVello.
The two-day tournament was scheduled for last weekend but postponed by weather. Wylie and DiVello had previous engagements Sunday.
"There are no moral victories, but you can't hang your head with the way the girls competed," Hammonon coach Eric Shulman said. "You have to be absolutely happy about that."
The 16-team tournament had to adjust its schedule and used speed-up rules for the first time.
After games reached 1 hour, 20 minutes, teams went to the international tiebreak rule and placed a runner on second base to start each inning.
Hammonton's Franki Rudnesky opened the top of the eighth inning and bunted Heather Visco from second to third base.
Shulman made a gutsy call and went with the squeeze, and Genovese didn't disappoint, getting one down as Visco beat out a close play at the plate.
But a fielding error in the bottom of the inning allowed Eastern to tie the game, and the Vikings won with a sacrifice fly.
"Missing our starting first baseman and our starting shortstop, that was tough,” Genovese said. “But I’m really proud of the girls that stepped up and helped out for the team. I feel like we pulled it together and played as a team.
“If we keep doing that this season, we will finish off good.”
Visco slid over from second base to shortstop and played well.
Jenna Earling stepped in to start at second and had an RBI single in the fourth inning.
Hammonton started the season off slowly but entered Sunday’s quarterfinals on a three-game winning streak.
The Blue Devils won league games against Absegami and Millville and then beat Williamstown in the first round of the tournament Saturday.
“It was nice to get on a roll,” Shulman said, “especially because we hadn’t been hitting in the beginning of the year.”
Genovese was a first-team Press All-Star last season as a sophomore but said she has been off to a bit of a slow start.
But she blasted a home run off the scoreboard in left field Sunday.
“That was my first this year,” Genovese said with a smile. “I needed that.”
Buena Regional was the only other Cape-Atlantic League team to reach the quarterfinals Sunday.
The Chiefs lost 11-1 to Shawnee in six innings.
Eastern beat Shawnee for the championship, 7-5.
Contact John O’Kane:
Eastern Regional 4, Hammonton 3
Hammonton 100 100 0(1)-3 9 3
Eastern Regional 000 020 0(2)-4 8 0
2B—Morano ER. HR—Genovese H.
Records — Hammonton 5-7; Eastern 14-2.
Shawnee 11, Buena Regional 1
Shawnee 023 402-11
Buena Regional 000 010-1
HR—Cooker, LaPlante, Gilligan S.
Records — Shawnee 9-5; Buena 12-3.
Coaches vs. Cancer
Gloucester County Institute of Technology 3,
Cumberland Regional 1
GCIT scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and beat Cumberland Regional in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament on Sunday at Triton Regional.
Winning pitcher Erynn Sobieski allowed four hits and had a triple at the plate. Jackie Martin doubled for Cumberland.
Cumberland 100 000—1 4 2
GCIT 000 012—3 4 1
2B—Martin C. 3B—Sobieski G.
Holy Spirit 7, Vineland 6
Holy Spirit’s Ashley Nazario singled in Christine Conaghy with the winning run in the top of the eighth inning, and the Spartans won for the first time this season. Nazario had two hits, including a double, and Marisa Napolitano and Kelly Poltorak each added two hits.
Holy Spirit 024 000 01—7 9 5
Vineland 010 001 40—6 3 2
2B—Martino, Lugo V. Nazario.
WP—Lanfranchie 1k (1-7). LP—Goldstein 0k.