By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR CITY — There was a strong wind blowing out to straightaway center field on Friday afternoon at Cedar Creek High, but to say it aided the three home runs visiting Egg Harbor Township hit against the Pirates would be a disservice to the talent the Eagles possess.
Sophomore first baseman Sienna Walterson blasted two home runs and junior shortstop added a solo shot to help propel EHT — arguably the best team in the Cape-Atlantic League — to a 6-1 victory over Cedar Creek, which came in sporting a 15-3 record. It certainly helped that sophomore pitcher Madison Dollard was on her game as well, striking out 10 in seven innings and allowing just one run, which came in the fourth inning after EHT had already built a 3-0 lead.
The win helped the Eagles rebound from their only loss of the season — a 5-4 setback against Kingsway on Wednesday — and gives EHT a shot of momentum ahead of an upcoming stretch that includes matchups against Millville, Vineland and Hammonton.
Walterson got things started with two outs in the top of the first, blasting a solo home run to left-center to put EHT up, 1-0. Biddle then led off the top of the second with a booming homer to right-center, and in the top of the fifth Walterson smashed her second dinger of the day, a two-run shot that gave the Eagles a commanding 5-1 lead.
“I’m very nervous when I go up, but you just have to put on a front, go up there with a smile and hope for the best,” Walterson said. “The first one, I didn’t think it was over, but I was so happy, couldn’t stop smiling. I was so excited and I was glad that put us in the lead early on. (The second one) was an inside fastball, I just saw it and I knew I wanted to crush that ball. I was just hoping for line drives today, that’s all I really look for.”
“That was an outside fastball,” Biddle recalled from her blast in the second inning. “I was watching her pitches before, and I’ve been working on my outside pitches, so once I saw that coming in I was ready to hit it.”
Biddle also had a tremendous day in the field, turning a couple of double plays, making a great diving catch on a sinking liner just over Dollard’s head, and hanging on to the ball on a rough slide during a stolen base attempt. The play had Biddle on the ground for several minutes before she was able to continue.
“I think my defense is important because knocking balls down in the infield stops a lot of runs. I go in there with no hesitation to try to not let any ball get past me,” Biddle said.
That was all the inspiration Dollard needed, as after Cedar Creek (15-4, 5-1 Cape-Atlantic League National) picked up its only run — which came in the bottom of the fourth when Olivia Catalina singled, stole second, reached third on an error and scored on a wild pitch — Dollard set down seven of the final 10 batters, including five via the strikeout.
“My curveball,” Dollard said when asked to explain what was working for her inside the circle. “I always count on my curveball. I know this is a great hitting team. Me and my coaches went through their lineup and we knew Nos. 1, 2 and 3 were the most scoring players on the team, so that’s what I threw the most, my curveball. Honestly, something I think my curveball is faster than my fastball.”
Dollard said the strategy against the Pirates was to keep their top three hitters — Catalina and the Johnson sisters, Chaneyl and Chasedy — off the basepaths at all costs. She was pretty successful at that, as she limited them to 3-for-9 with one run scored.
“I had a mental thing with 1, 2 and 3 because they are great hitters,” Dollard said. “I knew I couldn’t just give them anything they could hit, especially a fastball. I had to go for the corners.”
The win came at a good time for the Eagles (13-1, 6-0 CAL American), who were looking to quickly get past that tough loss against Kingsway on Wednesday. The Dragons came from behind and won in walk-off fashion, spoiling EHT’s perfect record.
“We went into Kingsway knowing they were a great team. We battled tough with them, but in the end they won,” Biddle said. “We came into Cedar Creek thinking the same motivation because they are also a really good team. Last year we lost to them, so we came back today as redemption.”
Added Dollard. “we needed (this). We knew Kingsway was a great team, and last year we had a rough battle with (Cedar Creek) so we knew they were a great team, so this builds our confidence.”
What’s next: EHT hosts Millville on Monday at 4 p.m. Cedar Creek travels to Ocean City on Monday at 4 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays