HANOVER _ Many memories were made during Hanover's trip to the New Jersey Little League 9/10 Tournament.
Hanover, which finished third, will look back on the entire experience fondly but will recall its losers' bracket victory over Swedesboro/Woolwich as the high point of the tournament.
In the 2-1 win over Swedesboro/Woolwich on Friday, July 31, in Northfield, Hanover snapped the 1-1 deadlock when Bella Pecora, mired in a slump, made good contact, hitting the ball between shortstop and third base. The decisive run scored on the fielder's choice, ending the extra-inning game and setting off an enthusiastic celebration.
"It was very exciting," Hanover manager Kristin Yacat said. "We've won some close ones in the past but this was really great. Everyone was jumping around. The girls were so pumped up and happy."
Yacat was thrilled for Pecora, the first baseman and cleanup hitter, because, although she did not get a hit, she benefited, as did the team, from putting the ball in play. Pecora was having a tough time at the plate prior to that at-bat.
"Bella getting that hit was big," Yacat said. "She had been struggling. By getting the bat on the ball, we scored."
Pecora also had success at the plate in Hanover's final game, rapping out three hits, when it was shut out 3-0 by Robbinsville.
The bottom of the seventh versus Swedesboro/Woolwich, which began with Brooke Gasparine drawing a walk, was tense. Gasparine went to second on Brynn Yacat's infield hit and to third on a passed ball. With runners on second and third, Pecora stepped into the batter's box and made solid contact.
After six innings of that game, Hanover had a decision to make. It could move ace pitcher Alyssa Pavone to right field, saving her for the next day. If Pavone, who struck out three, had stayed in, she'd be ineligible because Little League rules dictate that a pitcher can only throw six innings in one day. Yacat and her coaches decided to move Gasparine into the pitching circle.
Gasparine got a groundout for the first out. Two errors followed. Another groundout put Swedesboro/Woolwich runners on second and third. A walk filled the bases. A popup ended the threat.
"We were playing great defense so we had to try and keep it going and save Alyssa," Yacat said. "The defense took care of things and it ended up working out."
Hanover scored its first run in the fourth inning as Gasparine walked with the bases full.
Robbinsville, which was runner-up to Wallington, played exceptional defense to oust Hanover from the tourney. Many Hanover players hit the ball but couldn't find a hole. That is except Pecora, who had all three of Hanover's hits.
"This was a huge accomplishment for us," Yacat said. "Our 9/10s have been to the state tournament two years in a row. That says a lot for the program. This is a good group of girls. They all like each other and work very, very hard."
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