HAMMONTON-- Before this year, Millville hadn’t made it past the first day of the Hammonton tournament.
In Saturday’s rescheduled conclusion to the competition that started last weekend, the Thunderbolts gave up one run on the way to their first championship at the event.
Millville knocked off Pinelands, 7-0, in the semifinals before it knocked off neighboring Delsea, 2-1, in the final.
“We never got to the second day so winning the tournament is just a bonus,” Millville pitcher Mahogany Wheeler, who was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, said.
“When we got on the bus, (coach Brooke Ewan-Dixon) was like “I guess we’re coming back tomorrow. I don’t really know what it looks like. Our team is really good this year in order to come to this.”
Wheeler stepped into the circle for a pair of strong performances with Sydney Shannon injured.
The game was knotted at one run apiece after the third inning in which Millville’s Abbi Markee plated Rian Eigenmann on a double and Delsea’s Kaylin Power scored a run on a sacrifice fly.
The deadlock was finally broken in the top of the seventh, as Megan Sooy sprinted to the dish after a passed ball for the game-winning run.
Wheeler’s performance in the circle was even more impressive given the job she did against the heart of Delsea’s order.
“I’ve played with Diana (Parker) and the benefit of knowing her so much and what she can do well and things like that factored into this whole game and all the players on Delsea I usually see them around. This is our first time playing Delsea so it was kind of a big game for Millville,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler retired the side in order in the bottom half of the final frame to capture the prestigious tournament crown.
“It was a good game. I give them a lot of credit, even with last week and Sid going down and Mo having to pitch two games here and still not being 100 percent,” Ewan-Dixon said. “My middle infielder’s playing first base so we’re moving everybody around and they’re playing really well together, picking each other up when people are playing out of position.”
Millville wouldn’t have been in the final if it wasn’t for the performance of Eigenmann out of the leadoff spot.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Rian,” Ewan-Dixon said. “She had like 15 hits in this tournament herself and without her leading off, stealing and getting the hits that she did we wouldn’t even be in the position we’re in. I want to make sure she gets credit where it’s due.”
In addition to beating a quality opponent in Delsea, Millville proved it’s capable of bouncing back from a tough loss, like it suffered earlier in the week to Vineland, which is a sign the Thunderbolts will be a contender in the postseason.
“Vineland’s always hard and it sucked to lose, but we both played a good game and we just had to come back out stronger because we have more games throughout the season and states are coming up. We can’t dwell on that one game,” Wheeler said.