BLACKWOOD--- Call it a lucky coincidence or just motivation to out-perform a teammate in a friendly competition.
Whichever way you want to define the home-run hitting prowess of Briana Wilky and Chase Swank, it’s benefiting GCIT.
Wilky and Swank each contributed a two-run homer in the Cheetahs’ 15-run third inning to knock off Highland 17-6 in the first round of the South Jersey Group 3 tournament.
“For this entire year we’ve been following each other up,” Swank said. “Whenever (Wilky) hits one, then I hit one right after. It’s happened a couple times now.”
Wilky started the 19-batter rally in the third by crushing a two-run shot over the center field fence.
Two batters later, Swank replicated her fellow senior’s achievement to open up a five-run advantage.
“Even just take the home runs out of it for a second, we start getting one or two hits and the others want to hit, and they start to get that contagious feeling,” GCIT head coach John Holland said. “I don’t want to say it’s a competition, but one doesn’t want to be out-done by each other.”
The Cheetahs found their hitting stride in the third, as Christina Ludovico, Sabrina Finneran and Krista Murray added doubles to Wilky and Swank’s dingers.
“After we’ve seen the pitcher once, we expect our players to be able to hit around and then one person hits and then we kind of get the train rolling,” Wilky said.
The 17-run cushion the Cheetahs held entering the fifth inning helped, as they absorbed a six-run rally from the Tartans, which included a three-run home run hit well over the center field fence by Nerina Tramp.
Closing out games has been a concern for the Cheetahs, and it almost reared its head in the fifth before they finished off the contest.
“We’ve been struggling at finishing out games and putting them away,” Holland said. “We’ve been talking about that for the last four games at least or more. We’ve got to finish games and get through it and we did today.”
GCIT’s been able to achieve its 17-4 record, and its first playoff win in a few seasons, thanks to the combination of experience and youth.
"We have a lot of freshmen that have a lot of talent and I feel like they bring a lot to the team and we already had talent from last year and we’re just bringing it all together in one unit,” Swank said.
“Unbelievable how well the seniors, freshmen and everyone in between molded into a team and there’s respect up and down,” Holland said. “It’s just a good cohesive unit. They’re loose and having fun and hopefully we keep the ride going.”
Although they’re going to have to wait until at least Tuesday to play their second-round game because of the weather, the Cheetahs believe Wednesday’s win is just the start of something special.
“This is a huge win for us,” Wilky said. “This is the first time in three years making it past the first round of the playoffs. I think we’re going to open it up.”