FRANKLIN TWP. -- Delsea senior Diana Parker has been waiting a long time to play with freshman Brooke Clark.
Thanks to the contributions of both players, the Crusaders will play at home for the South Jersey Group 3 title on Tuesday.
“For me as a senior, I know this is all I’ve ever wanted for four years,” Parker said. “It’s surreal that we’re actually getting an opportunity.”
Fourth-seeded Delsea knocked off No. 8 Cherry Hill West 11-2 in Friday’s semifinals. Clark hit a grand slam in the second and Parker pitched seven strong innings in the circle.
“The first time I ever played with her I think I was in third grade and she was in kindergarten,” Parker said. “I’ve been waiting to play with her ever since.”
Clark got things off to a hot start in the second inning by rocking a grand slam well over the center field fence.
“I just had to get the job done because my teammates hit really well to get on base and the bases were loaded,” Clark said.
“It’s new for her, but she doesn’t play like a freshman,” Delsea head coach Scott Gutelius said. “Ever since the first weekend of tryouts, you could tell she doesn’t play like a freshman with her hustling, knowledge of the game, defense, offense.”
As Delsea continued to extend its lead at the plate, it made a few huge defensive plays to keep the visiting Lions off the scoreboard.
The best of them was a fifth-inning diving grab by Jenna Cetin, who sprinted from center into short right to end a rally in which West put runners on second and third.
“Luckily for us, when our plays were made it was big momentum boosters,” Parker said. “The play Jenna Cetin made in center was a big step up. She stepped up in that moment and everybody wanted to play for her in that moment.”
“The one that Cetin caught, if it goes in, the score goes to 8-4 and cuts the lead in half,” Gutelius said. “The fact that she caught that, it felt like that was it. Now we’re rolling still and making great defensive plays.”
After Cetin’s diving catch, Parker retired six batters in order, including four on strikeouts.
“I try not to fall into a rhythm or any patterns,” Parker said. “I won’t pitch the same to every girl. Whatever is working for me I try to read them in the box and then determine what pitch I have working for me that will be the hardest to hit.”
Now the Crusaders have the opportunity to win the title on its home soil against Moorestown on Tuesday, but they won’t take the home-field advantage for granted.
“I’ve been on both ends of it at home,” Gutelius said. “We just have to do our job.”
NJSIAA Group 3
South Jersey Semifinals
Cherry Hill West 001 100 0 - 2
Delsea 152 021 x - 11
WP: Diana Parker LP: Jess Bianco
HR: D: Brooke Clark