TOMS RIVER, N.J. - There's no good way to lose a state championship game.
But some ways are worse than others.
Overbrook lost the Group 2 title game in softball Saturday to Indian Hills when the last pitch of Jen Metzger's illustrious career was called a ball.
It was borderline, too.
"He was calling them low all game," Metzger said of the home-plate umpire. "I thought I had it."
It was a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 0-0 game at Toms River East.
Indian Hills cleanup hitter Katie Enright, the Braves' star pitcher, took the pitch and trotted to first base, where she was mobbed by teammates who had rushed out of the dugout to celebrate the 1-0 victory.
Metzger walked to the dugout, sat down, and buried her head in her hands.
There were lots of tears on the Overbrook side after the shockingly sudden end to the best season in the history of the program.
But the Rams should be proud of their play in the school's first appearance in a state-championship game - in any sport.
"It was a great game," Overbrook senior shortstop Samantha Borrelli said. "I thought we played great."
Close games are nothing new for the Rams. They won three 1-0 games in the sectional tournament, including an 11-inning thriller against Audubon in the South Jersey championship game.
But this was the state final. Overbrook was matched with a powerful Indian Hills team with a flame-throwing pitcher in Enright, who entered the game with a 30-2 record, an 0.28 ERA and 314 strikeouts.
"She was the best pitcher we faced all year," Metzger said.
Metzger matched Enright zero for zero, inning after inning, although it was a struggle for the Overbrook side. Indian Hills had two runners on base in the first, fourth and sixth, but each time, the Rams found a way out of trouble.
That's clutch softball.
Enright was dominant. She surrendered a single to Michelle Foster leading off the game, then retired the next 19 batters. She finished with a one-hitter with eight strikeouts.
"We knew their pitcher was good," Overbrook coach Jim Chiumento said. "We knew Jen was good, too."
Metzger and Borrelli shared pitching duties as a pair of aces for Overbrook teams that won back-to-back South Jersey titles. They combined for 19 shutouts this season. Foster, a senior rightfielder, set the single-season record for hits with 52 and the career mark with 142.
Overbrook (26-3) featured two other key seniors in third baseman Mary Kate Verespy and first baseman Sarah Buchhofer.
"All they wanted was a chance," Chiumento said. "We lost [in the state semifinals] last year, and they just wanted a chance to see if they could win a state title."
The Rams were right there. They got their first two base runners since the first inning in the top of the seventh, as Borrelli walked and Lachelle Rouse reached on an error. But Enright got the last out on a comebacker to the mound.
Indian Hills (33-2) received a double from Carey Houston with one out in the seventh. Metzger got the second out on a pop-up, but Perri Goldberg was hit by a pitch and Ashley DeYoung walked on a 3-2 pitch.
Metzger got ahead of Enright, 0-2. But the Indian Hills senior laid off three consecutive high, outside curveballs.
"I thought she might chase one," Metzger said.
The next pitch was the last of the game, last of the season, last of an era in Overbrook softball.
It was called a ball.
But no umpire's ruling could truly define a team that played like a champion.
Overbrook 0000000 - 011
Indian Hills 0000001 - 141
WP: Katie Enright. LP: Jen Metzger. 2B: IH-Carey Houston.