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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Hammonton stuns Absegami in playoff opener

Dan Russoman/THG

GALLOWAY—After riding a roller-coaster of a regular season that saw them post a disappointing 5-18 record, Hammonton High School’s softball team turned in one of its best performances of the spring when it crushed host Absegami 14-1 in a South Jersey Group 3 playoff opener on May 22.

The 12th-seeded Blue Devils grabbed an early lead, hammered out 13 hits and received a solid pitching performance from Gracie Ravenkamp to score the upset win against the fifth-seeded Braves.

While some may have been surprised by the victory, few in the Hammonton dugout were shocked as the Blue Devils have spent much of the season waiting to break out.

“We’ve played some really tough teams and just fallen a little short. Those games make us better and we work of that and build on it,” senior third baseman Victoria Esau said.

Esau singled twice, scored three runs and drove in two for Hammonton.

“We were aggressive, we played clean defense and it’s only up from here,” Esau said.

In addition to Esau’s bat, Alexis Vellucci had a double and scored a pair of runs, Lauren Potter added a single, scored three times and drove in one and Vivian Wilson went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Layla Cuneo-Snouffer added two RBI and Sophia Booker scored once and drove in a run as Hammonton received contributions from its entire lineup.

The offensive outburst was an encouraging sign for a Blue Devils team that has sometimes struggled at the plate this season.

“We started out the year offensively challenged, and I think it was our youth. in the middle of the year we started cranking the ball and kind of took steps back on defense. As a coaching staff, maybe that's on us. Maybe we were so concerned about scoring runs. Lately we've just been preaching, if you get something you can hit, hack at it. You want to be aggressive and put the ball in play and good things will happen. I think that mantra rally carried over to today [against Absegami],” Hammonton coach Eric Shulman said.

That approach helped Hammonton take the lead in the top of the first when Ravenkamp singled and scored on Cuneo-Snouffer’s fielder’s choice before Potter singled and scored on Esau’s base hit. An error later in the inning allowed Esau to cross the plate and give Hammonton a 3-0 lead.

The Devils added a pair in the third and two more in the fourth, building a 7-0 lead. Cuneo-Snouffer and Esau each singled and scored in the third and in the fourth, Velucci doubled and scored and Ravenkamp added a hit and a run.

A pair of Absegami errors in the sixth opened the door for six more Hammonton runs as the Blue Devils put the game out of reach.

Ravenkamp was efficient in the circle for Hammonton to earn the win. The junior struck out three and gave up just two hits. She also turned in a stellar defensive play, making a diving catch from inside the circle and throwing out an Absegami runner to turn the double play to end the bottom of the second.

The win advanced Hammonton into the quarterfinals where the Blue Devils took on Delsea, but that game ended too late for this edition.


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