Kaylee “The Salad Princess” Whittaker delivers to the plate for Steinert Softball against Robbinsville. Photo by Michael A. Sabo
By Rich Fisher
Apr. 10: For a while, it looked like the Steinert softball team was ready to steal one.
Despite being limited to three hits, the Spartans were holding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. The bases were empty with two outs, and then, kablooey!
Olivia Moser, Allie Taylor and Devon Witt came through with consecutive doubles as the defending Group II champions took a 3-2 walk-off win over the two-time Group III finalists in an epic early-season battle at Robbinsville today.
The good news for local softball aficionados is it happens all over again Wednesday when the Ravens (4-0) visit Steinert (1-1) for round two of the CVC Patriot Division home-and-home series.
It’s almost a shame these games fall so early in the season, considering the rivalry it has become.
“It’s a big win,” Robbinsville coach Lisa Rich said while trying to shake off the cold. “This is one of the teams I think about every single year because we have relationships with the other coaches and players on the other team. They play travel ball together. I coach with the other coaches together.
“It’s always nice to have a competitive spirit with them but it’s always nice to come out on top. We know they’re excellent, they’re championship level material and it’s a good test for us at the beginning of the year and we’re fortunate enough to come out on top today.”
As thrilling as it is to win one like this, it’s the complete opposite for the other dugout. Especially since Steinert grinded it out for 6-2/3 innings, battling through fielding miscues and some slight control issues (2 walks in 3 innings) by pitcher Kaylee “The Salad Princess” Whittaker.
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In the first inning, two Steinert errors and a single loaded the bases. Whittaker showed her mettle, getting a strikeout, a comebacker to the circle and a soft line drive to escape unscathed.
In the second, the Ravens had a runner on second with one out and “Whit” got two pop-outs.
Robbinsville touched her for a run in the third and had the bases loaded with one out before the junior got a strikeout and pop-out. From there, she was nearly unhittable; allowing a leadoff single in the fourth before mowing down 10 straight.
The Spartans gave Kaylee the lead in the fourth when Cora Bridgers reached on an error, Whittaker and Taylor Hawkes walked and Olivia Owens bounced a two-run single up the middle. A base-running gaff cost Steinert a chance for more, but it appeared the pitcher had enough runs the way she was throwing.
And then, suddenly, with no warning in sight, Robbinsville came up with its doubles trifecta to win it.
“This means so much to us, because Steinert’s such a good team,” Taylor said. “They’ve always been our rival and our whole team just worked so hard and it finally came together at the end. Kaylee was pitching great, she was keeping us off-balance, but we just stayed with it.”
Steinert had several other opportunities to score, but Kate Hunter was as tough as Whittaker with runners in scoring position.
In the second, Grace Gaskill singled and was bunted to second with one out but did not score. In the fifth, Megan Brugnoli singled and reached third with one out, to no avail. In the seventh, Hawkes got to third with two outs but stayed there.
In the end, it was the kind of game expected of two county powers – clutch pitching throughout the game and clutch hitting to win it.
And 24 hours later they get to do it all over again.
If today was any kind of preview, it should be a beauty.