VERONA _ The pitching motion employed by Verona's pitcher, Emily Esposito, messed with the timing of Whippany Park's batters.
Esposito would make a circle, bring her hands together and fire. Most often, the Hillbillies' ace would throw a deceptive drop which caused the Wildcats to hit grounders.
Finally, Whippany Park was rapping out hits but not in succession.
Once the Wildcats solved Esposito, they thrived. Whippany Park analyzed the offensive situation and, in the end, reached her for 14 hits en route to a 6-2 victory in a marathon 10-inning Nprth Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinal on Wednesday, May 31.
"We went though the order a few times and it was hard to figure everything out," said the Wildcats' Ellie Williams, the winning pitcher. "Her windup was different and we were more focused on that than her pitches."
The batters put their heads together and determined that they needed to load early and to "know where her pitches are."
Those solutions were effective and Whippany Park grounded out less. Still, the Wildcats required a string of hits to back Williams, who used curveballs and screwballs to limit the Hillbillies to three hits overall and two over the first nine innings.
"Both pitchers threw well," said Whippany Park coach Todd Callaghan. "The Verona pitcher had that drop going on and it caused many one hoppers to the infielders and they made the plays. We squared up better in extra innings and finally made good contact. We had a few solid hits in a row."
In the 10th inning, the international tiebreaker rule went into effect. Brynn Yacat put down a sac bunt to move Alessandra Middleton, who started the inning on second base. No. 8 batter Bella Cruz then singled up the middle for 1-0.
"I knew from past at-bats that she missed over the middle," said Cruz, who went 2 for 3. "I looked to drive one. I timed her well. I had energy and confidence. I was hyped up."
Cruz's exuberance shifted to her teammates and six more batters took their turns at the plate. Callaghan called for bunts and his players delivered. Williams drew a walk to fil the bases before Mikeala Schwippert doubled to make it 3-0. Vitals knocked in two more runs with a double. Madeleine Oswald's third hit, a single, put Whippany Park up, 6-0.
Verona battled back in the lower half of the 10th inning, scoring a pair of runs but the Wildcats hung on.
"It was surreal to win today," said Williams (13 strikeouts, 3 walks). "It was unusual to not score in the first few innings like we usually do. Long games are hard. It's the suspense. Who will hit? What will happen?"
Verona turned double plays in the seventh and eighth innings to keep Whippany Park, which will meet Weehawken in the sectional final on Saturday, June 3, off the scoreboard.
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