POMPTON LAKES _ It was a marathon first inning for the Par-Troy East Little League team versus Somerset Hills.
The routine was repeated over and over by all nine PTE starters - bat, run the bases and often score. Then, in what seemed like an instant, do it again.
"I'd just sit down on the bench then I'd have to rush to get up," said Tori Freire, who got two turns in the batter's box during the 14-run first inning that highlighted PTE's 18-0 win in the Section 1 Tournament on Tuesday, July 7 at Joe Grill Field.
Sophia Leon and Jenna Devens actually went to bat three times in the top of the first. Twenty batters in all took their swings for PTE, which will clash with Pequannock in a winners' bracket game on Wednesday, July 8 at 8 p.m. at the same site.
The early outburst and high-scoring outcome certainly were not expected. PTE manager Bob Devens, along with the coaches and players, tried to find information on Somerset Hills yet the online search and inquiries turned up nothing.
"We went in cold," the elder Devens said. "We didn't know what was going to happen. We had no idea."
What occurred was beyond their wildest dreams. Once PTE got going, it was unstoppable.
Two of the first three runs scored on a wild pitch. Gabriella Gennarelli had an RBI double to left-center field and also drove in another run in the inning with a single. Alyssa Gallagher knocked in two runs with a double to left field. PTE made it 8-0 on a double by Devens. Freire plated a run with an RBI single. Rachel Volarich picked up an RBI on a base hit. Several errors, walks and a hit batsman contributed to the big inning.
For Gennarelli, PTE's catcher, the explosive offensive showing put an end to a slump.
"I wasn't hitting well and now I'm getting line drives," Gennarelli said. "I've been practicing a lot. Working on my mechanics."
Freire, the winning pitcher, likened PTE's impressive beginning to "a virus or something."
"Once one person hits, it continues and continues," she said. "We keep going."
Somerset Hills, which draws from Bernardsville, Peapack and Gladstone, is representing District 17. It gained entry to the section without playing a district game because it had no opponents.
Still, Somerset Hills, whose baseball teams have had great success in recent years, put forth its best. In the fourth inning, Somerset Hills had runners on second and third with one out.
PTE, however, kept its shutout intact with a popup and an excellent catch behind second base by Lindsey DePetris to end the game. DePetris' grab drew the attention of her manager and was very similar to a play that Fair Lawn failed to make on Monday night versus Pequannock.
"I watched that game with Mario Freire, one of our coaches, and we saw it happen," Bob Devens said. "It was costly. The game was close and Fair Lawn lost to Pequannock, 3-2. Mario said 'We can make that play.' And, we have made those plays. Our defense has been phenomenal. It's kept us in games."
Pitching has played a large role as well. Freire went the first three innings versus Somerset Hills, striking out the first six batters and seven of the first eight. Freire finished with eight strikeouts in her three-inning stint before giving way to Lil Vidal, who surrendered Somerset Hills' only hit. The younger Devens pitches, too, giving her father plenty of options.
Freire, like many pitchers, was not completely satisfied with her outing.
"I did pretty well but I could be a little better," Freire said. "I didn't hit a couple of my pitches."
PTE put across three more runs in the second inning, two on RBI singles by Talie Braga and Volarich.
Jenna Devens, an infielder, was glad PTE had an abundance of chances at the plate in an actual game. A bases-loaded walk in the third accounted for the 18th run.
"It was good we got to hit so much," Jenna Devens said. "It should help. We're going to be be playing Pequannock. We need to be ready."
Should PTE prevail on Wednesday in the double-elimination tournament, it will vie for the section championship on Friday, July 10 at 6 p.m. A loss would mean PTE would drop into the losers' bracket and have to take to the field on Thursday.
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