DENVILLE _ When Morris Knolls' state game versus Bloomfield entered the 10th inning, Golden Eagles outfielder Melissa Ackerman was actually overjoyed.
The score was tied, 3-3, and the international tiebreaker rule would go into effect. And, even when the visiting Bengals went up by a run in the top of the 10th, Ackerman, due to be up fourth in the lower half of the inning, was still OK.
As it turned out, Ackerman got her chance in the batter's box and knocked in the game-winning run with two outs, lifting second-seeded Morris Knolls to a 5-4 victory over No. 6 Bloomfield in a North Jersey Section 1, Group IV semifinal on Friday, May 26.
Allie Schey, a senior like Ackerman, doubled to the gap in left-center field to knock in the tying run, also with two outs. Clearly, the Golden Eagles, denied the Morris County Tournament title two and a half weeks ago, are on a mission to extend their season as long as possible.
"It's good. It's amazing," Ackerman said. "We were in the same spot as they were in the 10th inning. Anyone can make a mistake. Anyone can get an important hit. We battled and we stayed strong. Nothing beats pressure situations. This is what you want. Tenth inning and a runner on second base... Just keep it going."
The win earned Morris Knolls (23-4) a berth in the sectional final for the fourth consecutive year. The Golden Eagles will travel to Fair Lawn on Tuesday, May 30 for a 4 p.m. matchup.
Schey as well was not going to get rattled, even though the Golden Eagles were one out away from seeing their season end. Carley Mahan, the first batter up, bunted over Jess Heitmann, the runner placed on second, to start the bottom of the 10th. After a popup, Schey got hold of a 2-0 pitch from Lexi Corio for her double, plating Heitmann and knotting the score, 4-4.
"I was a little nervous and Coach Heinemann was like 'Leave your doubt at the door,'" Schey said. "I thought I already passed the door. We needed a hit."
Ackerman's single caused a delirious celebration. The dugout emptied and the elated players were jumping up and down. They surrounded Ackerman and Schey before falling to the infield dirt. They planned stay together and go for ice cream afterward.
"This group wants a championship," Heinemann said. "Not winning the counties motivated them. It made them hungry. These girls are older now. Some of them have started for two or three years. They've been through the fire and know what's expected."
Ayana Andrade-Zygmunt had a sacrifice fly to give Bloomfield a 4-3 edge in the 10th.
Morris Knolls took a 2-0 lead on Meaghan Thompson's home run in the fourth inning. Ackerman got the first of her three hits to open that inning. After a strikeout, Thompson homered. In the fifth, the Bengals (17-11) put across three runs. With one out attained on a strikeout, Golden Eagles pitcher Brooke Wiarda, who tossed a four-hitter with nine strikeouts, hit two batters - Nos. 8 and 9 in the order - with pitches. Back-to-back-to-back RBI base hits by Andrade-Zygmunt, Jalia Santos and Jamell Quiles ensued.
"That was uncharacteristic of Brooke," Heinemann said of the hit batsmen. "She hung in there and overcame it."
Ackerman picked up her first RBI with a fifth inning single, bringing Morris Knolls even with Bloomfield, 3-3.
Mahan, the freshman second baseman, had the defensive gem of the game, running down a ball hit to the shallow outfield behind first base and making a diving catch to deprive Corio of a hit in the sixth inning.
Wiarda had her moment, fanning Bloomfield's No. 3 and 4 batters for the last two outs in the top of the 10th.
"I trust my teammates," Ackerman said. "I have faith and know someone will get the job done. We're there for each other. We did it together."
The Golden Eagles fell to Livingston in the sectional title game in 2016 and lost to Ridgewood in 2015. The 2014 squad claimed a sectional championship, blanking Roxbury, 5-0.
"We lost pretty bad last year (13-3 to Livingston) and we want redemption for that," Schey said. "We're upset about the county final, too. That's why every game since then is so important."
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW, INCLUDING ONES OF THE DRAMATIC FINISH VERSUS BLOOMFIELD!!***
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