It's championship-game time in South Jersey, and the adrenaline is flowing for softball players.
On Friday, sectional finals are scheduled in South Jersey Groups 1-4 and Central Groups 1-4. Non-Public A and B title games are set for June 7.
One of the most interesting matchups will be in South Jersey Group 2, in which Sterling, the No. 1 seed, will host second seed Buena at 2 p.m.
In other South Jersey group action, Group 1 will feature No. 10 Penns Grove at No. 5 Gloucester City; Group 3 has No. 5 Delsea at No. 2 Kingsway; and in Group 4, Washington Township, the No. 3 seed, will host No. 4 Absegami.
Two area teams will compete for Central Jersey group titles. Rancocas Valley, the third seed in Group 4, will host No. 12 Howell. Florence, the top seed in Group 1, will host No. 2 New Egypt.
In S.J. Group 2, the Silver Knights plan to focus on the game against Buena, but it won't be easy.
"We have the prom after the game," senior centerfielder Kylie O'Donnell said. "Hopefully, we will get a victory and go to the prom."
Sterling placed second to Haddon Heights in the Colonial Liberty; the Silver Knights, however, got their revenge in the Group 2 semifinals by beating the Garnets, 3-1.
Sterling (21-3) and Buena (25-4) are on postseason hot streaks with good pitching, hitting, and defense.
"We're clicking on all cylinders, and today was a perfect example," O'Donnell said about the win over Heights. "Defensively, almost everyone made plays. It was a total team effort. We did the little things right.
"Sarah [Almasy] stayed relaxed in the circle, and today was so hot that we were happy to see her stay cool."
Almasy, a backup pitcher last season, has been Sterling's No. 1 all season and has become dominant.
For Buena, junior Brittany Scott is a seasoned pitcher and hitter who last year finished with 20 wins, 220 strikeouts, a 0.70 ERA, and a .455 batting average.
Scott threw her third no-hitter of the season May 24 when Buena beat Lower Cape May, 10-0. Against Middle Township on May 26, Scott stroked her 101st career hit in a 10-0 win. Her record is 24-4.
The Chiefs (25-4) are riding a seven-game winning streak.
"To be going to the final is great," Scott said. "I am so pumped. We lost to Overbrook the last two years in the semis."
Township thriving. With 10 returning starters in the lineup, Washington Township was ripe for success, and here the Minutemaids are in the sectional final for the first time in years.
Township won the Olympic Conference American Division, and its record is 20-5. Senior Alissa Schoelkopf is in the circle. She and second baseman Christina Austin are four-year starters who have led the team out of the doldrums.
Absegami's power. Up-and-coming star hurler-hitter Kelly Lupton is the main reason Absegami is playing for a South Jersey crown. The junior's fastball has been clocked at 66 m.p.h., and she can get up to 70 m.p.h., according to private pitching coach Tom Besser.
Lupton bats third in a lineup that has only one senior. She is a power hitter who leads the team in extra-base hits.
"I like striking them out," Lupton said when asked what she enjoys about pitching.