• Dan Russoman

Hammonton falls in tourney semifinals


April Lewandowski delivers a pitch early in last week’s game against Bordentown. Lewandowski earned two wins at the Hammonton Tournament. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—For the first time in more than a decade, Hammonton High School’s softball team reached the semifinals of its own tournament last week, but the Blue Devils fell short of winning the title when it lost to Bordentown 7-3 last weekend.


“That was goal; to reach the second day [of the tournament]. So, in that way, it was a successful weekend for us,” Hammonton coach Eric Shulman said.


After not being able to hold the tournament the last two seasons due to COVID-19, the Blue Devils welcomed some of the best teams in the state to this year’s Hammonton Invitational Tournament, the 39th time the event has been held.


The host school has seldom advanced far in its own showcase event, regarded by many as the best tournament in the region.


“We said that the other day, it’s been a while since we advanced past the second round. So, coming in this year, we wanted to make it to the semifinals and once there, see what we could do,” Shulman said.


In the semifinals, Hammonton matched up against a talented Bordentown team that connected for three home runs and was able to take advantage of a few miscues by the Blue Devils to reach the championship game.


The Scotties went on to lose to Donovan Catholic 5-1 in the finals.


“Bordentown is very, very good and we knew we needed to bring our ‘A’ game to beat them. Unfortunately, we hurt ourselves a little and they had some big hits,” Shulman said.


The game was close for the first five innings. Bordentown threatened in each of the first two innings, but Hammonton pitcher April Lewandowski was able to work out of trouble without allowing a run.


The visiting Scotties broke through in the top of the fourth, as both Sofia Peterson and Kaci Benton connected for solo home runs.


Hammonton missed a chance to score in the bottom of the fourth after Alexa Panagopoylos led off with a double. Bordentown’s Allison Hoppe pitched out of trouble, as the Devils failed to score.


In the sixth, the Scotties added a run after Lewandowski walked two hitters and Erin Hoppe came around to score when Lauren Scharko reached on an error.


In the seventh, both Peterson and Erin Hoppe reached on flairs to the outfield, loading the bases for Benton, who broke the game open with a grand slam to give Bordentown a 7-0 lead.


“Early in the season, we didn’t play well defensively, and that kind of showed up again today. We made some mistakes and they [Bordentown] was able to make us pay for them,” Shulman said.


Hammonton rallied in the bottom of the seventh, as Victoria Esau reached on an error with two outs, Gracie Ravenkamp followed with a single, and Riley Lancaster belted a three-run homer to cut the deficit to 7-3. That was all the Blue Devils would score, however, as Erin Hoppe retired Sophia Vento to end the game.


“That was a positive, to see us battle for seven innings. Both Gracie [Ravenkamp] and Riley Lancaster have been struggling at the plate the last few games, so it was good to see them hit the ball well,” Shulman said.


Hammonton reached the semifinals after defeating both Shawnee and Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT).


The Blue Devils opened the tournament with a 3-1 win against Shawnee. The Renegades scored a run in the first to take a 1-0 lead, but the Blue Devils took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. Panagopoylos and Krista Tzaferos hit back-to-back home runs to put Hammonton up 2-1.


In the sixth, Hammonton tacked on an insurance run when Vento reached on an error and scored on Tzaferos’ RBI single.


Lewandowski earned the win, allowing four hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts.


In the quarterfinals, Hammonton took an early lead and held on for a 7-3 victory against GCIT.


Panagopoylos doubled twice in the game, including in the first inning when she scored on Ava Divello’s single.


In the second, Hammonton added three runs as Lewandowski, Vento and Tzaferos each drove in runs. Lancaster added an RBI single in the fourth, and in the bottom of the sixth Panagopoylos and Divello each drove in runs as Hammonton built a 7-1 lead.


In other action last week, Hammonton beat Wildwood Catholic 17-0 and lost to Mainland 6-3.


Against Wildwood Catholic, Lancaster had three doubles, scored three times and drove in five runs. Panagopoylos doubled twice, drove in five an scored twice. Ravenkamp had two hits, scored three runs and had two RBIs.


Mainland held Hammonton to three hits in its 6-3 win. Panagopoylos homered for Hammonton and Jadyn Barker had a double.


Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted Millville, but that game ended too late for this edition. On April 28, the Blue Devils host Atlantic City at 4 p.m.