By Andy Loigu
The sixth seeded Hackettstown softball team reached the North 2 Group 2 section final on Wednesday, May 24, as Nicole Carter pitched a two-hit shutout in a 3-0 win at Parsippany.
In seven innings Carter struck out eight batters while walking nobody.
Samantha Mandas powered a homer and drove in two runs for the Tigers. Hackettstown (now 17-7) managed just four hits but put them together.
A day earlier in the quarterfinal, after allowing a pair of first-inning hits, Carter retired the side in order for each of the next four frames. Cheyenne Scudder’s homer in the bottom of the fifth gave the Tigers a “walk-off” 11-0 mercy rule shortened win over Whippany Park.
Carter struck out three Wildcats and retired nine batters in the final four frames on ground balls.
“I concentrate on location and command, putting my pitches where I want them,” said Carter, who is a junior. She has been pitching since she was a third grader and credited her pitching coach, Tom Besser, who she has been working with for four years, for her success. “We’ve put in a lot of practice,” she said. She allowed no walks in either the quarterfinal or semifinal.
The Tigers scored single runs in the first and second innings, then plated three in the third, four in the fourth, and Scudder’s homer was the coup de grace.
“We don’t hit a lot of homers. We certainly don’t go up there swinging for them,” said Hackettstown coach Christina Sykora, a Warren Hills graduate who played Division I level softball at Temple University. “We have a lineup filled with good contact hitters who are smart situational hitters. We get runners on by being slap hitters and we have a lot of good baserunners, with good instincts for the game. I certainly did not expect a mercy rule win today. I expected a real nail biter based on the teams’ records.”
Carter (2-for-3) scored the first Tiger run after drawing a walk. She stole second, went to third on a single and scored on a wild pitch. Carter drove in the second run with a single to right field. Three Tigers bunted their way on in the three-run third. Mandas blasted a two-run homer to left with two outs in the fourth. Jordan Vandermark hit three singles and Carly Curcio had a two-hit game for Hackettstown.
Baseball team also advances
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ baseball squad won its first-round game in a 10-3 laugher over Lodi. Like the softball team, the Tigers’ baseball team is also a sixth seed.
Third baseman Matt Arcona led Hackettstown’s offense with a 3-for-3 game which included a double, homer and 3 RBI.
Chris Pert pitched six innings to get the win, allowing six hits and one walk, while striking out four. Joey Rodriguez closed the game.
“We have a group of seniors who have made deep runs in the state tournament before,” said veteran Hackettstown coach Gary Poyer. “They don’t need any motivational speeches. They know what’s on the line and what they need to do.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.