HADDON HEIGHTS – Just when it seemed the Haddon Heights High School softball team was about to squander a momentous opportunity, Nicole Angelo stepped up and saved the moment.
In the process she helped the Garnets advance to the next round of the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
Angelo drilled a two-out, two-run single through the left side of the infield in the fifth inning, lifting the Garnets to a 5-3 victory over Colonial Conference rival and defending South Jersey champion Sterling Monday in a quarterfinal game.
A No. 3 seed, Heights will next play No. 2 Delran in the sectional semis.
The hit came after Heights loaded the bases with no outs, but then failed to score as the next two batters went down without bringing home a run.
“When I went up to bat at that time, I knew the bases were loaded, and I knew I didn’t want to end the inning,” said Angelo, a senior, who had three RBIs for the game. “I said to myself that I just needed to get on. I wasn’t going to end the inning with bases loaded and no runs scoring.”
Haddon Heights coach Gianna Pedone praised Angelo for delivering at a time when it seemed the Garnets were able to lose their momentum.
“One through nine I put kids in the lineup who are going to produce and I have all the faith in the world in our hitters, and especially Nicole,” the coach said. “I knew she would put something in play.
“Her mentality is to keep it simple – see the ball hit the ball – and that’s exactly what she did.”
Angelo’s hit made a winning pitcher out of sophomore Sarah Wetherspoon. She pitched the full seven innings, and retired Sterling without much fanfare in the sixth and seventh inning to preserve the win.
“Sarah’s been dominating all season and today she had it all,” said Pedone. “When it looked like she was starting to run out of juice our defense had her back. That’s been the thing all year. We’ll find a way to get it done.”
For her part, Wetherspoon also praised Angelo for coming up with the big hit when Heights needed it the most.
“I was so happy for her because I knew she wanted to do it for the team,” she said. “I knew this is her senior year and she really wants to help us out in anyway possible.”
Wetherspoon, who pitched a four-hitter, dominated on the mound for three hitless innings while her team was busy manufacturing a 2-0 lead.
The Garnets broke out on top in the first inning when Wetherspoon helped herself with an RBI single. They added a run in the third when Victoria Speckman delivered an RBI single.
Then it became a game of spurts, as both offenses were able to put up multiple-run innings.
Sterling tied the score in the fourth on Sam Gibson’s two-run double, only to see Heights regain a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning when Angelo drove in her first run with a double.
Wetherspoon ran into a little more trouble in the top of the fifth inning when the Silver Knights tied the scored at 3-3 on an RBI single by Megan Barbara.
But that run set the stage for what happened in the bottom of the fifth.
The inning began with a double by Stephanie Tonuci followed by a single by Speckman and walk to Wetherspoon.
However, eventual losing pitcher Mallory Skelly got the next two batters on a strikeout and a fielder’s choice ground ball. But she could not see her way out of the inning.
“She did good today,” said Sterling coach Kelly Johnson of Skelly. “She missed some of her spots and their 3, 4, 5 batters are tough and it’s hard know what to throw.”
SJ Group 2
Sterling 000 210 0- 3 4
Haddon Heights 101 120 x-5
WP: Sarah Wetherspoon, LP: Mallory Skelly
2b: Nicole Angelo, Stephanie Tonuci, HH, Sam Gibson, S.