The Inquirer's two top- ranked South Jersey softball teams are set to square off on Saturday afternoon in part two of the Hammonton Invitational Softball Tournament.
No. 1 Lenape will take on No. 2 Washington Township in a semifinal game at Hammonton Lake Park at 5 p.m. Simultaneously, St. Joseph of Hammonton will play Bordentown in the other semifinal.
The championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Lenape-Township game has built-in drama. Lenape (11-1) knocked the Minutemaids (11-2) off The Inquirer's top perch a week ago. About two weeks earlier the Indians handed Township its first defeat, 2-0. Township is the defending tournament champion and wants to hold on to its crown.
"We try not to look at the rankings of teams," Lenape ace pitcher Jaime Moir said after she hurled a four-hitter to beat gritty Hammonton, 2-1, in the second round Saturday. "Washington Township is tough. It'll be a good game because we are evenly matched.
"We did beat them the last time. It's almost to their advantage, but Lenape will be the same [good team]," she added, referring to the revenge factor.
Moir fanned nine Hammonton batters. In the first game the senior also struck out nine hitters in a 7-3 victory over Florence (6-1), which had been on a tear, winning its first six games by shutout.
Township's ace, Alyssa Maiese, also had an excellent day on the mound. The senior pitched a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 3-0 win over Holy Spirit in the first game. She would have had her second perfect game of the season if she didn't yield a walk. Maiese followed with a two-hitter, fanning 10 in a 3-1 victory over New Egypt.
"We won the tournament the last time," Maiese said. "If we win again it would set a good course. It would give us the boost we need for the [Olympic] conference and the playoffs."
Sparks will fly
The St. Joseph-Bordentown matchup should provide fireworks.
St. Joseph, ranked third, outscored its rivals by 15-1, and the unranked Scotties scored 23 runs while giving up seven against their opponents in the first two rounds.
St. Joseph (11-1), the defending Cape Atlantic League, National Division 2 champion, is brimming with young talent. Wildcats hurler Nicole Pagano on Saturday blanked Camden Catholic, 3-0, and tossed a two-hitter in a 12-1 win over Sterling. The sophomore this season has thrown a perfect game and three shutouts.
Another sophomore, Kirsten Maser, carried a heavy bat against Sterling, slamming two home runs, a double and a single. The team batting average is around .400.
"We have depth and hitting," Wildcats coach Candy Dean said. "A lot of kids are hitting the [heck] out of the ball."
Bordentown's battery has made it one of the premier teams in the Burlington County League. Senior Meghan McDonald has been catching junior Hillary Allen for the last eight years, and that is one reason the Scotties are the defending Patriot Division champs.
"It's definitely an advantage because we're not only friends, but there's chemistry behind the plate," said McDonald, who calls the pitches.
Like the Wildcats, Bordentown has talented young players who can hit. Sophomore Nicole Walls smacked a single, double and a home run in a 10-0 win over Cherokee in the second round Saturday.
The Blue Devils (5-4) may not have an impressive record, but they play impressively for a team with three freshmen in the lineup. They appear to be inspired by Amanda Cassella.
The senior pitched a five-hitter in a 2-0, 10-inning win over Eastern, then ranked No. 3, followed by a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Lenape.
"We just have to get used to each other," Hammonton coach Stacy Jackson said. "We've been playing together for a month and a half. Other teams have been playing together for years."