East Rutherford turns Jets away in state final
In its first-ever trip to the state softball finals, Jordan-Matthews trailed in all three games versus East Rutherford from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.
Nonetheless, the Lady Jets had the title-winning runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh of game three after entering their last frame trailing by a run.
In a wild final game full of unexpected plays, East Rutherford got that last out in the seventh to bring up extra innings, with Caroline Webster lining sharply, but out, to center field.
Jordan-Matthews, led by sophomore pitcher Holly Clark, left a Lady Cavalier leadoff double stranded in the eighth, but couldn't keep East Rutherford from taking the lead in the ninth and the Lady Cavaliers (27-3) won their first-ever state title with a 4-2 victory in nine innings.
The series started Friday night with East Rutherford edging the Lady Jets 2-1.
A long day Saturday opened with Jordan-Matthews falling behind 3-0 before rallying to earn one more game with a 4-3 victory.
The Lady Jets, the Mid-State Conference champs and the Eastern Region champs, got the first shot of momentum in game three.
Facing Lady Cavalier hurler Savannah Davis for the third time, the Lady Jets pushed a run across in the second when Webster was hit by a pitch. Sydney Graham singled and Kaitlin James singled into right center field bringing Webster around and in from second base.
East Rutherford got the run back in the top of the third. Davis, who led the Lady Cavalier offense throughout the three games as well, singled with two outs and a runner on. She baited the Lady Jets into a rundown between first and second and a wild throw allowed Jordan Gray to score.
Clark, who had pitched in every Lady Jet game this season and pitched all 23 innings in the finals, held East Rutherford in the fourth and fifth.
The peak of the crazy final hit in the Lady Cavalier sixth.
Emily Dotson led off the frame with a ground-rule double, a shot bouncing over the left field fence. Dotson was on third and Ashlyn Vickers, after a single, was on second, with one out when the Lady Jets got the second out on a short, simple pop-up to the pitcher.
No one covered the plate. The ball was still in play. Dotson was one of a few, or perhaps the only person on or near the field to realize the situation and she sprinted to the plate scoring to put the Lady Cavaliers ahead 2-1.
Arguments ensued, followed by a committee meeting with the three umpires and five tournament officials on the field. After a few minutes of discussions the play stood.
The Lady Jets escaped the inning and more of a hole with another strange play. A double seemed to score Vickers. A few seconds after the play was seemingly done, the Lady Jets appealed whether Vickers touched home plate and were correct leaving a 2-1 score.
The one-run margin proved critical in the Jordan-Matthews seventh.
Leadoff hitter Hanna Stackhouse, with an out in the frame, reached on a grounder and error at third. The Lady Jets built the do-or-die threat with Madison Poe singling, plus taking second as East Rutherford tried getting Stackhouse at third. Dee DeCristofaro took a fastball in the back to load the bases.
Clark came through with a sacrifice fly to medium-deep center field to keep the game alive.
In the East Rutherford ninth, the Lady Cavaliers had two on and two outs when Davis drove a shot between third and shortstop for two RBI.
It was finally enough to put the Lady Jets away. Davis fired a three-up, three-down bottom of the ninth.
In the first game Saturday, Jordan-Matthews got a 4-3 win in a must-win game.
East Rutherford posted three runs in the top of the third. The Lady Jets answered to take the lead in the home half of the third.
Starting with James and Stackhouse knocking singles, the first five Lady Jets reached base in the big rally. DeCristofaro drew a bases loaded walk scoring James. Clark singled in Stackhouse. A sacrifice fly to center by Webster scored two runs, one on the fly and the second on a Lady Cavalier error, making it 4-3.
Clark and the Jet defense held the slim lead from there. Second baseman Alanna Pyrtle turned a tag, then toss to first, double play to end the Lady Cavalier fifth. Clark turned a popped bunt into a double play erasing a leadoff single in the sixth.
East Rutherford held the tying Lady Jet runner on third base in the final frame for a 2-1 victory over Jordan-Matthews in game one.
Jordan-Matthews put two runners on in the sixth and seventh innings but couldn't push across the tying run.
Poe started the sixth with a single and Webster singled with two down but East Rutherford, led by Davis pitching a complete game five-hitter, stranded Poe and Webster.
One out into the Lady Jet seventh, Katie Black hit a bouncer into center field for a single, then Kaitlin James reached on a Lady Cavalier error, a dropped pop up by the second baseman.
With pinch runners on for both Jet runners, Alestra Lask alertly raced into third on Stackhouse's pop-up in the middle of the infield which went for the second out, but no Cavalier covered third and Lask saw the situation.
Poe, who was 2 for 3 already on the evening, nearly came through with a huge hit, but her liner into center stayed up enough for a catch on the run for the final out.
East Rutherford pushed a run across in the first and second innings.
Jordan-Matthews got on the board in the top of the third. James walked to start the inning. A bunt by Stackhouse and a grounder by Poe moved James to third. With two outs, DeCristofaro drilled a shot over the second baseman's head for an RBI single.
A big defensive play kept the Lady Jets within a run in the East Rutherford third. With two down and a runner on first, a shot to the fence in left center field looked good enough to bring a run in until Lask, in center, Poe, at shortstop, and DeCristofaro, at the plate, teamed for a fine relay barely in time keeping the score 2-1, which still proved enough for East Rutherford.
The Lady Jets let too many scoring chances escape said head coach Chris Mote.
"If we execute at the plate, we score the runs we need to win this game," he said.
Clark finished with 11 strikeouts and two walks in a complete game.
"(Clark) has been doing the job all year for us. We have to do a better job at the plate," said Mote.
The Lady Cavaliers finished with eight hits. Davis singled and scored in the first and finished 2 for 3 at the plate. Clean-up hitter Vickers went 2 for 2 with a double and a walk.