TOMS RIVER, N.J. - All that time working on those seemingly mundane rundown drills paid off for Kingsway in the form of its third softball state championship and first in nine years.
Freshman pinch-runner Allison White, seemingly trapped in a rundown, ended up scoring the winning run on an errant throw in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Kingsway a 2-1 win over JFK Iselin in yesterday's NJSIAA state Group 3 final at Toms River East.
It was the first Group 3 title for Kingsway (21-3), which also won consecutive Group 2 state championships in 1998 and 1999.
Kingsway entered the bottom of the seventh in a 1-1 tie, its bats wilted by the heat - from the weather and JFK righthander Heather Corcia, who had two speeds: fast and faster.
The Dragons' first two batters reached base when Becky Whedon was hit by a pitch and Caitlyn Jenkins walked on four pitches.
Both were replaced by freshman pinch-runners, White for Whedon and Jesse Phillips for Jenkins.
Dominique Ficara executed a successful sacrifice bunt, moving the runners to second and third with one out.
Kingsway's Caitlyn Higgins then bunted to third base, and that's when everything went haywire for JFK. Third baseman Liz Kline fielded the bunt, faked a throw to first, and turned around to find White standing in no-man's land.
Kline's throw went home and catcher Jessica Tymitz threw back to shortstop Jessica Fleig, near the third-base bag.
Fleig threw the ball over the catcher, allowing White to score the winning run.
"We practice that rundown all the time and she [White] is the one we use," Kingsway coach Tony Barchuk said.
White showed some ingenuity when initially caught in the rundown. Instead of giving up easily, she tried to prolong things as long as possible.
"I just tried to stay alive and hoped they would make a mistake," White said. "It's just an unbelievable feeling scoring the winning run as a freshman in the state championship game."
It wasn't the easiest of ways for JFK Iselin (27-6) to end its season.
"It's tough to lose that way and I really feel for the kid," said coach Nancy Cuntala, referring to her shortstop.
Kingsway made the most of its one hit, an RBI double in the first inning by winning pitcher Jamie Minix.
The Mustangs tied the game in the second inning on an RBI single by Christina Katora that rocketed off the tip of shortstop Arianna D'Acqua's glove.
After that, the pitchers took over. For Minix, who is headed to Bloomsburg to play softball, it was the culmination of an outstanding high school career.
"When the weather gets hot, she is better," Barchuck said.
Actually, Minix has won no matter what the temperature has been, but the warm weather does suit her. She was the winning pitcher in Kingsway's 1-0 state semifinal win over Middletown South.
"We played great defense today, and when we don't make errors, we can't be beat," Minix said. "Everybody wants to win that last game and now I have that thrill."
JFK Iselin 010 000 0 - 1 3 1
Kingsway 100 000 1 - 2 1 0
WP: Jamie Minix (20-3). LP: Heather Corica (27-5). 2B: KJamie Minix.