GLASSBORO-- It’s hard to be positive on the day your season ends, but there’s plenty of positives to take away from Buena’s season.
The South Jersey Group 1 champion fell in the Group 1 semifinal to Metuchen 3-1 on Thursday at Rowan University.
For the Chiefs to even be in the state semifinal in the first place was an achievement beyond any expectations set back in March.
“They really played well beyond my expectations from where we started at the beginning of the season,” Buena head coach Pam Pickett said. “Of course, you want it all and you want to keep going. But the expectations for these ladies when they started were surpassed.”
One bad inning in the field and some untimely at bats did the Chiefs in on Thursday.
Metuchen plated a pair on Molly O’Connor’s RBI single in the third and Julie Stankiewicz followed up with a sacrifice fly in the next at bat to score a third.
Two of the three runners to reach base at the start of the inning were walked by freshman pitcher Natalie Ampole, who may have run into a little fatigue after throwing a great game in the sectional final on Wednesday against Audubon.
“I think it was a little fatigue,” Pickett said. “It’s tough to go two days in a row, especially when the day before is a big exciting day. I think she just was struggling a little bit.”
Buena scored its lone run of the contest in the fourth inning on a slap single by Sammie Maxwell that brought in Tyra Capers. But, unfortunately for the Chiefs, they stranded three runners on base to conclude the frame.
The same disappointment was felt in the sixth, when a runner was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice and a ground out to the pitcher stranded a pair of runners.
“We ran the bases poorly,” Picketts said. “If we run the bases well, it’s a whole different ball game. We just needed to get that clutch hit and we didn’t get it.”
The final few outs were especially rough for the Chiefs as their seniors hit into the last outs of the game.
But no matter how hard the ending was, the 2017 season and the senior class will go down as a special one in Buena lore.
“It was tough for them because the seniors were the last three batters,” Pickett said. “That’s exactly where we want to be, and those were the kids who carried the younger girls and, in the beginning, they did a lot for them and taught them and after that were able to play with them. The seniors will be sorely missed. It’s been an amazing four years for all of them. They’re family.”