By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Egg Harbor Township softball team has 21 wins this season, and when you collect that many victories, not all of them are going to be pretty. Eagles coach Kristi Troster saw some things on Wednesday afternoon in the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament championship game against Cedar Creek that made her cringe, but, like she said, a win is a win.
EHT overcame some mistakes — and took big-time advantage of some miscues by the Pirates — to score a 6-3 win in the inaugural four-team event. The top-seeded Eagles dispatched Buena in the semifinals, while Cedar Creek took care of St. Joseph Academy in the other semifinal. EHT’s win over Cedar Creek was its second of the season, as the Eagles topped the Pirates 6-1 to close out April.
“At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win. It wasn’t always textbook,” Troster said. “We always have to do something with a little bit of flair — be it good or bad, in some type of way. But, we still hit the ball well, we put the ball in play. We had some mistakes, and hopefully we play a little bit better on Friday (in the state playoffs).”
Cedar Creek, the No. 2 seed, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Chasedy Johnson was hit by a pitch, stole second, stole third and scored on a throwing error. But top-seeded EHT evened the score in the bottom of the third as center fielder Kayla Dollard singled, stole second and scored on an infield error — one of six errors from the normally sure-handed Pirates.
Egg Harbor Township (21-1) took the lead for good with a run in the fourth, as Madison Biddle singled, stole second and later scored on an error, and the Eagles increased their lead to 6-1 with a four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth. Natalia Stewart doubled and came around to score on an error to make it 4-1, another run scored on an error and later in the inning Ryley Martini roped an RBI single.
That was plenty for sophomore right-hander Madison Dollard, who struck out 10 and allowed just one earned run in six innings of work.
“This feels great. It puts us in a good position for states and boosts our confidence,” the younger Dollard said. “My screwball (was working). I feel like (my spin) keeps it off the bats. It always feels good to pitch with a lead. I know that my team has my back. Going into the seventh inning, knowing we had home-field advantage, felt really good, too.”
Cedar Creek (22-5) got back to within striking distance by plating a couple of runs in the top of the sixth. Chaneyl Johnson doubled to left to start the inning and scored on a two-out RBI single by MaKenzie Baggstrom to cut the Eagles’ lead to 6-2. The Pirates made it 6-3 on a run-scoring single from starting pitcher Liz Martin, and Cedar Creek brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Dollard was able to wiggle out of a jam by getting Chasedy Johnson to line out hard to shortstop to end the game.
“This was very important to us. It’s a nice confidence builder. There’s no love lost between these two teams. The kids know each other very well,” Troster said. “For it to be them we were playing against made it that much more important to our girls. Obviously, we wanted to win. We did it differently this year — we would have won the CAL regardless of this tournament, but we at least solidified it and won the tournament.”
Kayla Dollard set the table all day for the Eagles, going 3-for-4 with a couple of runs scored and three stolen bases from the leadoff spot.
“I’ve been working on being more selective on my pitches. In the beginning of the season I was chasing more, but now I’m looking for that certain pitch that I want. Anything else I’m trying to foul off or not swing at it,” Kayla Dollard said. “My job as a slapper is to get on base — that’s the only thing, no matter how I do it, whether it’s a walk, hit-by-pitch. My job is to get on base and steal bases.”
Troster said winning the first CAL Tournament was a big thrill for her seniors, who lost their entire sophomore seasons due to the covid-19 shutdown.
“My super competitor (Kayla Dollard) as you saw from her spiciness on the bases from the first inning, she is like our ‘get-back-to-the-drawing-board’. Anytime we start to go outside (our game plan) she’s like, ‘guys, we have to refocus,’” Troster said. “I have a lot of seniors who are super competitive, and a lot of other seniors who create a big team and family with this group. I think this is very important for them because this is the class who miss (a whole season due to covid). It was nice that there’s an extra opportunity to play that there hasn’t been in the past.”
What’s next: EHT hosts Toms River East on Friday at 4 p.m. in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals. Cedar Creek hosts Barnegat on Friday at 4 p.m. in the South Jersey Group 2 quarterfinals.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays