EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Pitcher Tori Szrom walked the first Washington Township High School softball batter she faced on four pitches Wednesday afternoon.
After that, the Egg Harbor Township ace didn’t give the visiting Minutemen a sniff at scoring on a cloudy, windy day.
Szrom pitched a complete-game two-hitter as the Eagles (6-0 and the No. 2 team in The Press Elite 11) cruised to a 9-0 win. Washington Township, No. 5 in the Elite 11, drops to 8-2.
Egg Harbor Township center fielder Emily MacNeil starred at the plate with three hits — including a bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning — two runs scored, three RBIs and three stolen bases.
“I saw the ball where it was pitched and just swung,” said MacNeil, an 18-year-old senior from Egg Harbor Township, of her triple. “Their second pitcher (Shannon Gasparovic) had a quicker speed than their first (Gabby Merryman), and I timed it right.”
The game was a much-anticipated matchup between the Cape Atlantic League’s Eagles, who finished 24-1 last season, and perennial Olympic Conference powerhouse Washington Township. The one-sided nature of the result surprised many observers, including Minutemen coach Tracy Burkhart.
“We just didn’t show up today,” she said. “We didn’t fight at all. We made too many defensive errors and let too many strikes go by at the plate. You can’t do that against a good team.”
Egg Harbor Township coach Mary Dunlap credited her team’s sense of togetherness and high confidence level for the lopsided win. It’s a theme she’s been preaching all season.
“These girls have grown up together, and we come out here having worked hard and trying to be as prepared as we can be,” Dunlap said.
“We respect everyone we play, and (Washington Township’s) certainly a good team over there.”
The Eagles scored the game’s first run in the second inning. Right fielder Marissa Varela walked and stole second. With one out, third baseman Elisabeth Alicea hit a grounder back to Merryman on the mound.
Merryman considered throwing to first base, but then changed her mind and threw to third. However, Varela beat the throw and eventually scored on a passed ball for a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning, MacNeil led off with an infield single and stole second. She advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, then Strom plated her with a sacrifice fly to right for a 2-0 lead.
Egg Harbor Township broke the game wide open in the fourth inning, scoring six runs. Catcher Kaitlyn Riggs drew a one-out walk and stole second base, one of the Eagles’ 12 thefts on the day.
Riggs advanced to third on a passed ball, then was driven home by an inside-out single to right field by Alicea. Second baseman Alyssa Martini walked, and designated hitter Alexa Preziosi singled to left to load the bases.
MacNeil, who hits left-handed and often takes a running start toward the pitches she faces, steadied her feet against new Minutemen pitcher Gasparovic and ripped a triple into the right-center gap for three RBIs and a 6-0 lead.
Left fielder Brianna Lagroteria followed with a bunt single that saw MacNeil stay at third. Lagroteria stole second, and both runners were driven in on a long double by Szrom into the gap in left-center for an 8-0 lead.
Egg Harbor Township added one more run in the sixth. Lagroteria singled to center with one out and stole second. Szrom followed with a single to left, sending her teammate to third base. Two batters later, Varela singled to center to drive in Lagroteria for the final 9-0 margin.
Szrom, who had three RBIs and didn’t allow a hit after the second inning, moved to 5-0 on the season.
“We were a good kind of nervous in the beginning, but we were able to get a great win against a good opponent,” said Szrom, a 17-year-old senior from Egg Harbor Township. “I told my teammates to break this one open, and they did. It’s a lot more fun pitching with a lead.”
Washington Township — 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Egg Harbor Township — 011 601 x — 9 11 0
2B — Szrom 2 EHT. 3B — MacNeil EHT.
WP — Szrom (1k). LP — Merryman (3k).
Records — WT 8-2; EHT 6-0.