Staff Report

When you’re the defending South Jersey Group 4 champion, went to the state title game last year and are undefeated through the first five weeks of this season, you’re going to get everybody’s best shot and staying unbeaten is not an easy thing.

The Egg Harbor Township softball team is finding that out. After cruising past Mainland and Hammonton earlier this week, on Thursday afternoon Vineland put a huge scare into the Eagles, nearly pulling off a big upset. The Fighting Clan came in just 7-5 but jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. EHT eventually rallied back to take a 9-5 lead by scoring seven runs over the final two innings, then had to hold off a seventh-inning Vineland surge to escape with a 9-8 win and improve to 13-0.

Vineland had the tying run at third base in the bottom of the seventh before EHT senior right-hander Madison Dollard worked out of the jam and shut the door. She allowed nine hits and eight runs, but did strike out nine in picking up the victory. She now has 133 strikeouts this season in just 83 innings.

Victoria Negron had a big day at the plate for Vineland, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and four RBIs, while Lucy Day, Madison Cantoni and Gyanna Porreca each had two hits. Madison Biddle, Sofia Spatocco and Kaci Velardi each had a pair of hits for EHT, while eight different Eagles players finished with an RBI.

The Eagles have a tough stretch of games coming up, beginning with a morning tilt at home against Kingsway on Saturday followed by a four-game week next week that features Cedar Creek, a road game at state powerhouse Donovan Catholic and two more road games, at St. Joseph Academy and at Millville.

REACHING A MILESTONE: Earlier this week legendary Buena coach Pam Pickett reached career win No. 700 when the Chiefs beat Wildwood Catholic, 9-0. Pickett becomes the first coach in South Jersey to reach 700 wins and joins just five other coaches in New Jersey who have hit that number. She has guided the Chiefs to five sectional championships during her career.

SHAKING OFF A SLOW START: Holy Spirit began the season just 2-3 but has been on fire ever since, winning nine of its last 10 games. A big reason has been the three young pitchers the Spartans feature. Sophomores Mary Kate Armstrong and Mia Merlino have combined with freshman Gabi Jones to strike out 112 batters in 73 innings and they have a collective 1.63 ERA. Jones has been outstanding, allowing just three earned runs in 29 1/3 innings while striking out 49.

BACK ON TOP: Ocean City had a down year last spring, going 5-15, but the Red Raiders are back on top this season, leading the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference with a record of 9-6 (7-1), nearly two games better than OLMA (6-6, 5-2). After a tough four-game losing streak in mid April, Ocean City has won seven of its last eight, the only loss coming against OLMA. Freshman Jessica Mooney has 96 strikeouts in less than 52 innings, while MacKenzie Segich is hitting .456 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and 15 runs scored. She has a team-leading 26 hits.

PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF: Pleasantville has had a tough go of it the past couple years but the Greyhounds have continued to work hard to get better, and that work paid off this year when they won their season opener, 15-13, against Bridgeton, snapping a 57-game losing streak in the process. Pleasantville is 2-9 this season, with both wins coming against Bridgeton.