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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Miscues cost Devils in loss to St. Joe


THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Hammonton catcher Ava Livingston awaits a throw to the plate as St. Joseph’s Angelina Bill slides in for a run during last week’s game.

HAMMONTON—Taking advantage of a few miscues by their rivals and a strong outing from pitcher Ava Fisher, St. Joseph Academy’s softball team was able to top rival Hammonton 4-2 last week in the first meeting between the two teams since 2017.


Hammonton committed five errors in the game and those mistakes proved to be the difference in a close game.


“You can’t make that many errors and give up that many free bases at any level of softball and expect to win,” Hammonton coach Eric Shulman said.


The sloppy play cost the Blue Devils on a day when runs were at a premium. The errors led to two St. Joseph runs in the top of the third and two more in the fourth.


That was all the Wildcats would need, as Fisher kept Hammonton off the scoreboard for most of the game, twice working out of bases-loaded situations.


“Hammonton has some hitters in their lineup, and you have to try to keep them off-balance the best you could,” St. Joseph coach Les Olson said.


Fisher said she felt comfortable in warmups and was ready to go against St. Joe’s rivals.


“I throw every day before a game, and it really helps me focus. I get into the mindset of letting my defense back me up and just throw strikes. “I felt like I was in a nice groove,” Fisher said.


Fisher has battled command issues all season, but against Hammonton last week, the junior managed to limit walks.


“She [Fisher] came out throwing strikes and really performed those first few innings,” Olson said.


Fisher handed out five walks and also hit a batter, but finished the game with a season-high 13 strikeouts.


She cruised through the first two innings before St. Joe was able to break through with a pair of runs in the top of the third.


Three errors cost Hammonton in the rally.


Angelina Bill led off with a ground ball to third that was throw away, and after Alaina Dorsey drew a one-out walk, Macie Jacquet’s single led to a wild throw from center, allowing Bill to score. Two batters later, Fisher reached on a two-out error as Dorsey raced across the plate for a 2-0 St. Joseph lead.


In the fourth, a few more Hammonton miscues led to two more St. Joe runs.


Bella Davis singled with one out to get things started for the Wildcats, and with two down, Bella Ramos singled in Davis to put St. Joe up 3-0. Dorsey followed with a base it to right was misplayed and another bad throw to the plate let Ramos score.


“You cannot throw the ball around against good teams. It cost us today,” Shulman said.


Hammonton put a run on the board in the bottom of the fourth when Alexa Panagopoylos led off with a home run. Two walks and a single from Jadyn Barker loaded the bases for Hammonton with one out, but Fisher pitched out of the jam with a strikeout before coaxing a pop up to end the inning.


The Blue Devils added a run in the fifth after Sophia Vento led off with a walk and stole second. After a strikeout and an intentional walk issued to Panagopoylos, Ava Divello’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed, allowing Vento to score. Ava Livingston’s walk once again loaded the bases for the Blue Devils, but Fisher limited the damage, retiring the next two hitters.


Working her way put of two jams gave Fisher and her St. Joe teammates confidence.


“I felt like I was just flowing with the game. I felt we had great energy. The team was picking me up,” Fisher said.


Jacquet, St. Joseph’s catcher, said she could tell Fisher was on her game during warmups.


“With warm-ups I can see how her pitches are working. She has a couple of good pitches that we like to call, and if the ones that are consistently good in warm-ups, if we stick with those pitches we’ll have a good game. She comes out here and blows teams out of the water. I mean, when you’re facing 67 (mph) any pitch is going to be a good pitch. She always makes it fun for me,” Jacquet said.


The pair of bases-loaded threats was all Hammonton would get for the game as Fisher settled in and only allowed two more baserunners in the last two innings.


A large crowd was on hand for the first meeting between the two teams since the 2017 Hammonton Tournament. Players on both teams were excited for the matchup.


“We wanted to beat them, but it didn’t work out the way we wanted. We have another game against them [on April 21] and we’ll be ready,” Divello said.


“We all came into this game really into it. This is a big game for us, always. This is the first year we’ve played them in about four years, so it was big. It was a big win, too,” Jacquet said.


The teams have tried to schedule a game in the past, but outside factors kept the rivals from meeting on the field.


“We called them a few times, they called us, but we could never make it work,” Olson said.

Olson compared the rivalry to when he coached at Sacred Heart.


“When I was at Sacred Heart, we played Vineland every year. It’s nice to be back playing them [Hammonton]. It has been a while,” Olson said.


Shulman agreed.


“We were in the Tri-County [Conference]for a while and they do a nice job of filling out the schedule. Combine that with playing in so many tournaments and it’s hard sometimes to add a game. But now with the league putting us in the same division, we play twice this year and I know the players and parents get excited about it,” Shulman said.


The win was St. Joe’s fourth-straight after dropping their season-opener at Audubon, and gave the Wildcats some early-season confidence.


“We came in off a win against Cedar Creek, who beat us two times last year. And beating Hammonton is a big confidence boost. We’re getting good hits and having good at-bats and getting the job done in the field, and I think that’s going to continue,” Jacquet said.


Dorsey also felt St. Joe would build on last week’s victory.


“When we beat better teams it makes us think we can go out there and beat anyone,” Dorsey said.


For Hammonton, the loss continued a sluggish start for the Blue Devils.


“We can’t make those kind of mistakes. We believe we’re a very good team, we just need to concentrate more and make plays,” Shulman said.

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