Tabby Dick couldn't sit still in class and couldn't get comfortable on the long bus ride to Lenape yesterday, preoccupied with thoughts of Gloucester's Group 1 state softball semifinal against New Egypt.
The jitters showed in the field as well for Dick, the Lions' senior second baseman who uncharacteristically bobbled the ball several times - and fumbled a routine pop-up in the ninth inning.
But it was her defensive gem in the bottom of the 12th inning that preserved Gloucester's wildly entertaining 4-3 victory and sent the 28-1 Lions into Saturday's state championship game against Saddle Brook.
"It's very nerve-racking to have the ball come at you with the game on the line," Dick said. "I just wanted to knock the ball down and make a play."
Erika Tucker of New Egypt represented the tying run at second base with two outs in the Warriors' final at-bat when Kaci Hokins ripped a line drive that tore the glove off Dick's left hand. But Dick was able to grab the ball, scamper to her feet, and fire a strike to Lions catcher Teresa Anderson, who applied the tag on Tucker and set off the Lions' celebration.
"Tabby had a little rough time with the glove today, which never happens," Gloucester coach Dave Light said. "I can understand the kids being nervous because I lost track of the innings. I lost track of the outs, and I couldn't even tell you what the final score was."
The one player that Gloucester counted on all season came through again as senior pitcher Taylor Chain (13 strikeouts) battled through some early trouble to shut down New Egypt over the final eight innings - and then lofted a sacrifice fly down the left-field line that brought home Grace Cooney with the winning run in the 12th.
"I was going to do whatever I had to do to get that run home," Chain said. "I was ready to [pitch] as long as it took to win, but Tabby has a gun, and thank God she was able to make that throw."
The Lions threw out three runners at the plate. In the second inning, leftfielder Courtney Dolson backed up third base, snared an overthrown relay by Dick, and made a perfect throw to nail New Egypt star Abbey Houston (3 for 5, one run) trying to score.
In the 10th, Chain uncorked a wild pitch but dashed in and took a toss from Anderson and blocked the plate perfectly to tag out Hopkins.
Gloucester jumped on top early, with Dick's hit scoring Cooney in the first inning, and Jill Stafford added a two-run single in the third.
Losing pitcher Emily Bausher fanned a dozen batters and went 4 for 5 at the plate as New Egypt became the first team to produce double-digit hits off Chain this season. But other than a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Kayla Soles and Laura Sandford's RBI single, the Warriors (20-6) weren't able to come through in the clutch - stranding the bases loaded after scoring one run in the fourth inning.
New Egypt's other run scored on an illegal pitch call against Chain in the third, and the teams combined to strand 26 runners during the nearly three-hour marathon.
"We're young and we were jittery in the beginning. I think it was a terrible game in the first three innings," said New Egypt coach Carolyn Videla. "But our kids battled back. They refused to give up, and we had our chances."
Gloucester 102 000 000 001 - 4 7 2
New Egypt 002 100 000 000 - 3 10 2