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Alissa Schoelkopf pitches Washington Townip past Absegami and to the Group 4 sectional crown

With a runner on third and two outs, Washington Township pitcher Alissa Schoelkopf walked Absegami's Julia Pietropola on four pitches.

With a runner on third and two outs, Washington Township pitcher Alissa Schoelkopf walked Absegami's Julia Pietropola on four pitches.

It wasn't the worst mistake in the world - Pietropola is a strong hitter, and the Minutemaids were holding a two-run lead.

But this was the South Jersey Group 4 championship game, and Schoelkopf certainly wasn't intending to walk anybody. She was left in a tough spot - but that's where Schoelkopf, a four-year starter, has shined all season.

The senior went from walking a batter on four pitches to striking out the next batter on three pitches, working her way out of the only jam she faced in the Minutemaids' 5-0 home win over Absegami on Friday afternoon.

The win marks Washington Township's first South Jersey title since 2005.

"Everybody's always going to be nervous in a championship game," Schoelkopf said. "But you just have to go out there and play like you know how to. You can't think about the runner on base. You can't think about the last batter. I just think about each batter individually and go after them."

Washington Township (21-5) will face Howell in the state semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

"We came out ready to play today," Minutemaids coach Tracy Burkhart said. "We came up with big hits when we needed to, and I thought Alissa did an excellent job on the mound."

Schoelkopf allowed three hits and three walks and struck out 12.

She was aided on offense by leadoff hitter Taylor Coroneos, who went 3 for 3 with two runs scored. Coroneos was driven in twice by No. 3 hitter Kylie Mulholland, who went 1 for 3.

"We've been working all year for this win," Coroneos said. "I think there was a mixture of both nerves and excitement today. But once we got going, I knew we could do it."

Absegami pitcher Kelly Lupton looked strong in the loss for Absegami (20-7), striking out eight. But she allowed three runs in a bizarre fourth inning.

With runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the fourth, the plate umpire called a third strike on Michelle Panasiti.

Lupton appeared to be one step closer to escaping a jam that had started with hits by Nikki Sandelier and Jess Fanty. But the strikeout was nullified by the third base umpire, who ruled that Lupton had "crow-hopped" in her delivery, resulting in an illegal pitch.

The pitch was ruled a ball, and the runners advanced a base, resulting in Sandelier crossing the plate to put her team ahead by 3-0.

With new life at the plate, Panasiti ripped a single that drove in Fanty from third. Two batters later, Panasiti scored when Lupton was again called for the same illegal pitch.

"I'm not saying we could have won today because Alissa was on and they are a very good team," Absegami coach Pat Esemplare said. "But when you start splitting hairs with that crow hop . . . that bothered me a lot, especially when you call it with a runner on third base."

Absegami 000 000 0 - 0 3 0

Washington Township 101 300 x - 5 7 0

WP: Alissa Schoelkopf. LP: Kelly Lupton. 2B: WT-Taylor Coroneos.