• The Hammonton Gazette

Blue Devils rally past Buena


Alexa Panagopoylos connects for a home run in Hammonton’s win against Buena last week. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—An eight-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning lifted Hammonton High School’s softball team to an 11-3 win against Cape Atlantic League rival Buena last week, as the Blue Devils continued their undefeated start to the 2021 season.


Last week’s game was close through five innings, as the teams traded the lead twice before Hammonton broke it open in the sixth, sending 12 batters to the plate while scoring eight runs.


“[Buena] Coach [Pam Pickett] and her staff do a very good job with their program. They’re fundamentally sound, the don’t chase bad pitches, we knew it was going to be a tight ball game,” Hammonton coach Eric Shulman said.


The game was one of the more anticipated matchups of the early season schedule, as both teams are considered contenders for the division title.


Hammonton put the first run on the board in the bottom of the second, after Krista Tzaferos led off with a single, moved to second on Ava Divello’s base hit, then reached third on a passed ball before scoring on April Lewandowski’s fielder’s choice.


The Blue Devils had chances to add runs early in the game, but couldn’t string together enough hits to stretch their lead.


In the top of the fourth, Buena tied the game when Julia Sheridan drew a bases-loaded walk.

The Chiefs added a run in the fifth on Kendal Bryant’s RBI single.


In the bottom of the fifth, Hammonton moved back in front when Alexa Panagopoylos blasted a two-run home run.


Buena tied the game in the top of the sixth, as Emily D’Ottavio homered off the scoreboard in left field.


The Blue Devils, who had struggled to take advantage of scoring chances throughout the game, finally broke through against Buena pitcher D’Ottavio in the bottom of the sixth, starting with Tzaferos’ leadoff home run that put Hammonton ahead for good.


“Krista [Tzaferos] has been hitting the ball so hard this season. She’s been awesome for us,” Shulman said of his junior second baseman. Tzaferos finished the game against Buena with three hits and three runs scored.


“We saw a little of what she could do two years ago as a freshman. I think missing last year hurt her, and she got off to a slow start this preseason. But every time she was successful she became more confident and she’s really settled in,” Shulman said.


After the home run, Divello singled and went to second on Lewandowski’s sacrifice bunt. Victoria Esau then singled and moved to second on an error, scoring Divello.


Sophia Vento singled and Makenzie Edwards walked to load the bases for Riley Lancaster, who’s fielder’s choice drove in another Hammonton run.


Lancaster’s ground ball was fielded by Buena’s third baseman Bryant, whose throw home was too late to retire Esau.


Next to the plate was Panagopoylos, who launched a two-RBI double that all but put the game away.


Lilly Miller then grounded out, scoring Edwards, before Tzaferos reached on an error to drive Panagopoylos. Divello followed with a two-run single that wrapped up the scoring.


“We have been swinging the bats well. Early on, we hit a couple of balls hard, but their kids made some really good plays. And that happens. But we knew if we just kept swinging the bats like that, stuff will start finding the grass,” Shulman said.


In other action last week, Hammonton posted wins against Oakcrest and Absegami.


Against Oakcrest, Edwards allowed just two hits and struck out 13 in an 11-2 Blue Devils win.


The senior pitcher also did well at the plate, going 3-for-5 with five RBIs, hitting three doubles.


Tzaferos was 3-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored, while Vento went 2-for-3 with an RBI and three runs.


The week ended at Absegami, where Hammonton cruised to a 14-2 win.


Tzaferos continued her torrid pace at the plate, finishing the game 3-for-3 with two home runs and five RBIs.


Entering play this week, the junior sports a .722 batting average and has driven in 10 runs in five games.


Panagopoylos also went 3-for-3, driving in five runs and scoring twice. Lewandowski earned the win, recording seven strikeouts.


Panagopoylos is batting .526 with 11 RBIs this season.


Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted Williamstown and Holy Spirit, but those games ended too late for this edition. On May 6, the Blue Devils host Atlantic City at 4 p.m.


“Hopefully, we can keep it going.  We have some tough games coming up, but I think as long as we keep swinging as well as we have been, we’ll be OK,” Shulman said.