Pennsville catcher Ashley Minch sent a strong-arm message to High Tech's speediest base-stealer yesterday in the first inning of their NJSIAA Group 1 state championship softball game at Toms River North.
Minch picked off Justine Mateo, the runner who stirs the Lasercats, at first base after a leadoff single.
"The message was that if you don't get her [Mateo] the first time, she'll probably do it again," Minch said.
Minch's arm, timely team hitting and running, and the control exhibited by pitcher Rachel Coleman powered the Eagles (21-4) to a 9-2 victory and their first Group 1 state crown since 2002.
"The feeling is unexplainable," Minch said. "I always wanted it, and to go out with these girls makes it even better."
Minch was referring in general to the team and specifically to the four other seniors with whom she has played for the last four years: Dawn Curry, Katie Gaskill, Megan Knott and Kristin Garvin.
Minch also threw out Mateo trying to steal second in the third inning and in so doing prevented a High Tech rally for the second time.
Mateo had stolen 62 of 63 bases before meeting Minch. The Lasercats junior said the last time she was thrown out was on April 20 in a 4-2, nine-inning loss to Queen of Peace.
"I try to stir it up for the girls," Mateo said.
High Tech coach Ravon Anderson said that Mateo's getting caught twice, Pennsville's hitting, and pitcher Erica Colon's having to work from behind each inning kept the Lasercats from gaining any momentum.
Mateo's batting average was .640 last season and was close to .600 as of yesterday, Anderson said.
Curry, Pennsville's leadoff hitter, showed Mateo how it's done, stealing second base twice and scoring three times.
"During warm-ups, we saw their catcher's arm and we knew we could run on her," said Curry, who scored the first run of the game in the top of the first to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Kelly Kline slammed a two-run home run in the second inning to make it 3-0, as Coleman kept the ball low, mixed her pitches, and kept the Lasercats off balance.
Gaskill doubled in a run in the third and Lindsay Snajkowski singled in Knott as the Eagles took a 5-0 lead in the third.
High Tech (25-6) didn't score until the fifth inning, when Bianca Arroyo singled home Vicky Ramos and the team trailed by 6-1.
Colon, whose record was 23-5 entering the game, helped herself by smashing a home run over the right-field fence in the sixth. However, Curry, Minch and Gaskill had scored in the top of the inning and the Lasercats, who committed two errors, were down by 9-2.
Gaskill's double was her 100th career hit, bringing her even closer with the four other seniors, who had already hit the century mark.
"We can all come back some day and say in 2008 we won a state championship," Gaskill said.
Pennsville 122 103 0 - 9 9 0
High Tech 000 011 0 - 2 7 4
WP: Rachel Coleman. LP: Erica Colon. HR: PKelly Kline. HTErica Colon. 2B: PKatie Gaskill, Ashley Minch, Lindsay Snojkowski.