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Softball: Eagles fly highest as South Hunterdon wins sectional


Some were home. Some were on the road.

Some were thrilling. Some were yawners.

But all four games in this year’s Central Jersey Group 1 sectional had a commonality: They were South Hunterdon wins.

The No. 3 Eagles (17-7) traveled to No. 1 Dunellen (16-7) last Wednesday (thriller) and claimed their first ever sectional title with the 4-2 win. South Hunterdon broke a 2-all tie with two RBIs from Kayla Kilmer in the top of the seventh. Ace Kilmer posted a bagel in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the championship.

“We had runners on second and third with two outs,” Kilmer described.

“I went to the plate knowing I had to put the ball in play somewhere and just make something happen. I went a little deeper in the count than I would have liked, but I was waiting for a good pitch and when it came, I was going to hit it and hope for the best.”

The May 23 semifinal – a 10-0 South Hunterdon rout at No. 2 Riverside – was a yawner to fans of offense. Kilmer dominated the Rams, scattering just three hits in a mercy-rule shortened shutout.

“I was a little nervous before the game,” Kilmer said. “We really didn’t know anything about Riverside. We went in blind but had the attitude of ‘Let’s go for it.’ When we came out and got those first couple of runs, I think all of us came to the realization that we were more than capable of going home with this game. At that point, the doubt flew away.”

“Going in as underdogs pumped us up even more,” added Katelyn Carrier, who hit .358 while striking out 34 in 37 innings. “That made us even more excited to go in, prove people wrong and show what we can do at South Hunterdon. We had a good season and we wanted to show how strong we can play if we come out with our ‘A’ game.”

The Eagles blasted No. 14 Bound Brook 16-5 in the first round behind Alana Catanzareti’s three RBIs. The second round, a 2-1 extra inning thriller with No. 11 New Egypt, was tighter.

The coaches “were trying to get across to the girls that this doesn’t happen all of the time so enjoy the ride while it’s going on,” recalled skipper Megan Cegielski, who led Kean University to the 2013 NCAA super regionals as an outfielder. “Go out and play every game like it’s your last, because it very well could be.”

South Hunterdon claimed its first Skyland Mountain championship in seven seasons prior to the sectional semifinals. The Dunellen win iced the cake.

“We’re really excited for every game,” said Brenna McCloughan, the hero of the New Egypt game, last Thursday. “At this point, we’re hyped for everything. We’re never upset in the dugout. We’re always cheering a lot. In the field, we try and make plays as best we can.”

“The biggest part was getting their confidence up,” Cegielski explained.

“Instead of me telling them ‘I know you can do this,’ but rather getting them to buy into that they are more than capable of doing this. We coaches have all of the confidence in the world in them. We want them to believe in themselves and in each other.”

South Hunterdon’s season, probably the greatest in softball history, ended on May 31 with a 9-0 loss to Buena in the semifinals of the New Jersey Tournament of Champions.

Kilmer (.395 average, three homers, 30 RBIs) won the team’s triple crown. Tiernan Swayhoover batted .385 and Skyler Badessa ranked in the team’s top three in both extra base hits and steals to help fuel the offense.

The Buena outcome didn’t burnish the shine from the sectionals trophy. “The season has taught me to not underestimate anybody,” Carrier offered. “We’re from little South Hunterdon but we can do anything we put our minds to. We worked hard enough for it all season. It came to us.”

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