Colts Neck tops Matawan, 3-2; advances to Shore Conference Tournament softball final


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History is being made on the softball diamond at Colts Neck High School and Coach Anthony Iachello is enjoying every minute of what his team is accomplishing.

Iachello, who joined the Colts Neck softball program four years ago as an assistant coach, said the goal at that time was to change the culture of the program. He has seen that goal achieved during the 2021 campaign in his first season as the Cougars’ head coach.

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On May 24, the Cougars won their first Shore Conference B North Division title with a sweep of Neptune High School

On May 26 in Colts Neck, the Cougars achieved another first in program history with a 3-2 victory over Matawan Regional High School in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. The victory over the Huskies sent the Cougars to their first SCT championship game.

Colts Neck (18-0) will play for the SCT title against Donovan Catholic High School of Toms River on May 29.


“I told the girls at the beginning of the season that this season is a jigsaw puzzle. Nobody knows who is good. No one knows where it’s going. We just have to play and see where the pieces fall. Right now, the pieces are falling in the right spots for us,” Iachello said. “Every win from here on is history.”

Against Matawan in the SCT semifinals, the Cougars battled back twice from a one-run deficit. The score was 2-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning as Colts Neck came to bat.

Leading off the sixth was senior Melissa Deissler, who had tied the game in the third inning with a single to score a run. That was Deissler’s 12th RBI in 2021 and her fourth in the last three games.

“Being able to contribute like that is amazing,” Deissler said about her hit in the third inning. “It felt amazing.”

In the sixth, Deissler reached base on an error, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a perfectly executed bunt by Kate Mager.

With Julianna Kowaleski batting with one out, Deissler raced home with the go-ahead run when a pitch got past Matawan catcher Kaysey Antos and rolled to the backstop. The run gave Colts Neck a 3-2 lead.

“Once (the catcher) missed that ball it was end game,” Deissler said. “I had to go. I had to win it for my team right there.”

Sophomore Katie Finnegan drove in the Cougars’ first run of the contest when she beat a throw to first for an infield single with two out in the second inning. That tied the score, 1-1.

With her team leading 3-2 heading into the top of the seventh, senior pitcher Ava Metzger was set to finish the job and send the Cougars to the SCT championship game.

However, four batters into the inning, the Huskies had the bases loaded with one out. Metzger had no room for error and needed to retire the next two hitters to close out the game.

Showing why she is one of the top pitchers in the Shore Conference and in central New Jersey, Metzger struck out Antos and Maddie Wiedner to send the Cougars to the SCT final and to put her name in the program’s history book.

“I knew I needed to do my job at that point and just throw strikes to make them swing,” Metzger said. “I didn’t have my best stuff, but I knew I had to go with the flow and grind it out to end the game. I’m happy I was able to close out the game for my team.”

Metzger finished the game with 10 strikeouts for her 13th double-digit strikeout performance of the 2021 season.

As a hitter, Metzger has driven in 26 runs with 27 hits (2 HR). In the circle, Metzger has 195 strikeouts in 102 innings pitched.

“Just being able to play this season is an amazing feeling,” she said. “We are making the most of a crazy season because of COVID-19. You never know when things are going to end or what is going to come at you. It’s great to make the most of this season.”

After playing for the SCT title, the Cougars will set their sights on winning the Central Jersey Group III state sectional crown. The Cougars are the No. 1 seed in the state sectional tournament.

No matter what happens from this point forward, Iachello wants his players to have fun in the big games that are coming up and to show everyone Colts Neck is a great place to play softball.

“I hope we have just as much fun playing in the Shore Conference championship game as we did playing in the first game of the season. The girls love being around each other. They have fun playing together. These girls are what a team is all about,” the coach said.

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