NORTHFIELD _ Whoosh! Silence. Another big swish. Indecision.
Hanover manager Kristin Yacat could not believe what she witnessed when her players took their turns in the batter's box versus Wallington in the team's first game at the Little League 9/10 State Tournament on Thursday, July 30.
Although Hanover has never boasted big bats, it had never been victims of 16 strikeouts, half of them swinging.
Hanover, runner-up to Robbinsville in the state tournament in 2014, played exceptional defense for the most part but eked out just two hits and was blanked 4-0 by Wallington.
The setback drops Hanover into the losers' bracket, where it will meet Swedesboro. That game is slated for Friday, July 31 at 5 p.m. at Northfield.
"We haven't struck out that much ever," Yacat said. "We haven't even struck out half of that in a game. We absolutely need to hit."
Throwing the pitches that Hanover did not hit was Wallington right-hander Abigail Tabaka. The only players to get hits for Hanover were Brooke Gasparine, who singled with one out in the first inning, and Mikayla Swan, who had a base hit with two outs in the fifth inning.
The fact that the girls didn't make contact or were called out on strikes baffled Yacat. She knows her players are capable of making contact. Once they get on, they use their speed - a strength - to capitalize on the basepaths. Perhaps they were overanxious, a bit nervous or too selective.
"We've got to swing the bat and be confident at the plate," Yacat said. "We are capable of hitting. There is no question about it. We just have to get the bats going."
Hanover put up a bit of a fight in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kelly O'Grady and Giovanna Mess walked. After two strikeouts, Bella Pecora drew a walk to fill the bases. The game ended with Tabaka notching her 16th strikeout.
Wallington posted all of its runs in the top of the first inning. Everything began smoothly for Hanover in the field. There was an unassisted play by Pecora, the first baseman, then a Wallington runner was thrown out at first base after hitting a grounder to third. It was then that Hanover, known for its reliable fielding, got into trouble.
With a runner on second and two outs, Wallington scored four times - on three errors and a single to center field.
"That really, really hurt us," Yacat said. "Wallington ended up having eight batters up."
No doubt, Hanover will try its hardest to put the ball in play and wreak some havoc on the basepaths tonight in the double-elimination tournament.
"We can hit. We can," Yacat said. "I cant believe we struck out that many times."