By Warren Rappleyea
South Brunswick High School’s softball team split two key tournament games with Sayreville War Memorial High School, but the win propelled the Lady Vikings into the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship against second-seeded South Plainfield High School.
Second-seeded South Brunswick edged the top-seeded Bombers, 2-1, May 21 in a GMC Tournament semifinals game. A pair of freshmen came up big in the win. Jessica Stadler’s third-inning single drove in what proved to be the winning run, and coach Heather Wells called upon Alexandra Zetchus to come on in relief to close out the game in the top of the seventh inning.
The victory sent the Lady Vikings into the finals for the second successive year. Last spring, South Brunswick also played South Plainfield — and came away with a 6-4 victory in an 11-inning nail-biter.
Sayreville, however, bounced back two days later with a 6-3 win in the quarterfinals of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central, Jersey Group IV tournament. Lindsey Warick blasted a home run and drove in a pair of runs, and Haley Grossi had two hits in the loss.
While the loss was disappointing, Wells noted that returning to the GMC Tournament title game was one of the team’s goals.
“At this time of the year, all the games are tough ones,” the coach said. “Sayreville has a good team, and they were two good games. We want another GMC title — that’s what we’re concentrating on now.”
The Lady Vikings, 17-2 overall, have certainly played that way during the tournament. South Brunswick easily bested seventh-seeded Carteret High School, 10-7, in a quarterfinals matchup May 17. Emily Collins and Warick had four hits apiece and combined to drive in five runs.
In a 14-4 opening-round success against East Brunswick High School (15th seed), Warick had three hits, including a home run, and two RBIs, while Grossi hit two doubles.
The Lady Vikings’ high-powered offense features two regulars batting more than .500 and four others above the .400 mark. Warick, a sophomore, is batting .617 to go with seven homers and 29 RBIs — all tops on the team — and is tied with Jaime Klemas with 29 runs scored. Klemas, meanwhile, is hitting .574 with three homers and 20 RBIs and her 35 hits lead the team.
Speedy Carly Rybinski is at .493 and has a team-leading 16 stolen bases, in addition to 12 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Emily Collins is batting .423 with 17 RBIs; Grossi is averaging .346 with two homes and 17 RBIs; Jess Risch is hitting .407 with 15 RBIs; and Stadler is at .405 with nine RBIs.
In the circle, Wells has leaned heavily on Gabriella Brancaccio. The sophomore is 16-1 with 59 strikeouts in 85 innings of work. Zetchus has shown plenty of promise. In 34.2 innings, she has issued just six bases on balls. The duo more than made up for the loss of ace hurler Nicole Majewski to graduation.