HADDONFIELD – After hurling a masterpiece in her previous outing, Haddon Township senior pitcher Juli Neel experienced a few struggles against a strong-hitting Haddonfield lineup during Tuesday’s Colonial Conference softball game.
But Neel gained strength and momentum following a rocky start, and even chipped in a little handy work with her bat to lift the Hawks to a key 7-4 triumph over the host Bulldawgs.
Haddon Township, which improved to 4-1 with the victory, jumped out to a fast 3-0 first inning lead only to see Haddonfield (4-2) slice away at the advantage before moving out in front 4-3 entering the top of the seventh inning.
But the Hawks rallied with a four-run seventh, led by an RBI game-tying single from Neel, who also hurled a strong 1-2-3 seventh to close out the win.
Neel tied the contest at 4-4 with her RBI single before her teammates added three more runs on two passed balls and a fielders choice to take a 7-4 lead to enter the bottom of the seventh. The Township hurler then settled into a solid groove and retired the side to end the tight affair.
“Even though we were trailing near the end, I felt confident we would pull it out,” said Neel, a third-year varsity starter who shut down Haddon Heights in her previous start. “My pitches were moving around well in the last two innings, so I knew I would finish the game strong.”
Neel will pitch for Division III Wesley College next season, and is ecstatic to extend her softball career to the collegiate level.
“Ever since I was little, I worked hard toward this goal,” she said. “My Dad was my manager when I was in the youth leagues, and he’s enjoyed watching my high school games and is thrilled that I’ll be playing in college.”
Neel’s bottom line showed seven innings pitched, four runs and five strikeouts. She surrendered 12 hits.
Emma Acar knocked in a pair of runs in the first inning for the winners and finished with two hits and three RBIs. Alyssa Angiletta added a pair of RBIs for Haddon Township.
After falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first, Sophie Maccarone doubled home Gabby Barranger and Sophie Popp drove in another run on a sacrifice fly as the Bulldawgs pulled to within 3-2. The host team tied it in the fifth on a safety squeeze bunt by Popp, and then claimed a 4-3 lead in the sixth thanks to an RBI single by Maccarone.
But the Hawks refused to give up by rallying for four runs in the top of the seventh. Neel highlighted the frame with a solid RBI single to left field to bring home Angiletta and tie the game at 4-4. Haddonfield then committed two errors later in the frame to let in three more runs, and the Hawks walked off with a key conference triumph.
“Traditionally, these games go down to the wire and that’s what we came prepared for today,” Hawks coach Frank Ottinger said. “We got it rolling with our bats early but we slacked off quite a bit through most of the game. Luckily we picked up the pace when we need it. Plus we took advantage of some mistakes today.”
Haddonfield will close out the week with two more Colonial games against Paulsboro and Woodbury on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.