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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Blue Devils top Vineland, Pennsville

Sophia Vento had a key hit in Hammonton’s win at Vineland. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—One day after winning a wild season opener at Vineland, Hammonton High School’s softball team scored four late runs to pull away from Pennsville and post a 7-2 win.

The games were the first the Blue Devils have played since late May of 2019. Last season was canceled due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With just two seniors back from the 2019 team, Hammonton’s roster this year features mostly sophomore and freshmen. As a result, head coach Eric Shulman was eager to see how his team would perform once the season began.

“We talked [before the season opener] about going into game one trying to get to 1-0. We lost a lot of firepower last year and with the pandemic, we didn’t get to see these girls a lot. We thought we had some talented softball players, but with not even seeing them at the JV level, you’re not really sure what you have. Even scrimmages don’t show you much. Yesterday (at Vineland) we played well and got the first one, now we have the second one and we just have to build from there,” Shulman said.

Hammonton’s two seniors, Makenzie Edwards and Lilly Miller, have provided leadership and strong play this spring.

“It’s nice to have both her [Edwards] and Lilly back. Makenzie saw a lot of time on that 2018 team that won a championship and she came back in 2019 and threw well, and Lilly jumped in ’19 and did well. Those two have a nice working relationship so, it’s nice to have those two to lean on,” Shulman said.

Edwards is Hammonton’s ace in the pitching circle, and earned wins in both games last week. She also serves as the leadoff hitter for the Blue Devils and has swung the bat well so far this season. Miller provides steady play behind the plate and is also one of Hammonton’s top hitters.

Both contributed to Hammonton’s opening game win at Vineland, as each drove in a run as the Blue Devils posted a 9-6, come-from-behind victory.

Hammonton’s opener came on April 22, a few days later than most teams in the region.

“The girls were excited to play again. It’s been a long time since they were on the field,” Shulman said.

The Devils built a 4-0 lead behind Miller’s RBI double and a run-scoring single from Alexa Panagopoylos.

Vineland fought back to tie the game with four runs in the bottom of the first, then took the lead with two more in the fourth.

Hammonton clawed back into the game, scoring three times in the top of the sixth, the big hit a two-run triple from Sophia Vento. Krista Tzaferos and Edwards added RBI hits later to seal the win.

Edwards earned the win, going the distance and striking out six.

Against Pennsville, the Blue Devils went down 1-0 in the top of the second when Ashlynn Borden homered for the Eagles. In the bottom of the frame, Hammonton fought back to take a 2-1 lead.

After Ava Livingston walked to start the inning, the next two Devils grounded out. Tzaferos then belted a double to tie the game, and Vento followed with an RBI single to put Hammonton in front.

In the fourth, the Blue Devils added a run on Edwards’ sacrifice fly, scoring Ava Divello.

Pennsville scored a run in the top of the fifth, but Hammonton stretched its lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the inning as Tzaferos drove in two with her second hit of the game.

In the sixth, Hammonton scored two more runs, as Miller and Livingston each drove in runs to make the final score 7-2.

Edwards scattered seven hits over seven innings for the win, walking two and striking out 14.

Earlier this week, Hammonton played at Oakcrest, but that game ended too late for this edition. On April 28, the Blue Devils host Buena at 4 p.m.


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