Julia Murray drove in half of Bergen Tech's runs as the Knights picked up a quality win on the road, 6-4, in Mahwah on Tuesday.
MAHWAH – Bergen Tech has been a competitive team over the last two seasons but was never able to get over the hump in close games against the tougher opponents on its schedule. That changed after a huge win over defending Bergen County champion Ramsey earlier this season, the Knights got their signature win and have been pressing on. With the county seeding meeting coming up next week, the Knights had another chance to mark themselves as a contender for a high seed and legitimate threat to make a deep run.
On the road against a hungry Mahwah team looking for a resume-boosting win of its own, the Knights faced plenty of adversity throughout the game. Having let a two-run lead slip away late in the circle, Bergen Tech junior Casey Calabrese made a point to make up for it at the plate.
Her triple in the top of the seventh inning drove in the game-winning run as Bergen Tech improved to 10-1 on the season with a hard-fought 6-4 triumph on Tuesday at Mahwah High School.
“We’re just really motivated and we’re having fun,” said Bergen Tech’s Julia Murray. “It’s a good feeling to contribute to our success. Our whole team has stepped up and played well right from the beginning of the season.”
Chrissy Altamara had two hits for Mahwah, which fell to 6-3 on the season.
Bergen Tech scored first with a run in the top of the third inning. Jocelyn Greer drew a walk and Lexi Palumbo followed with a double to right-center. A good relay throw created a bang-bang play at the plate but the umpire ruled that Greer got under the tag of Mahwah catcher Lexi Corra.
The Knights took a major blow as Mahwah’s Chrissy Altamara stroked a leadoff double. On a freak play in the outfield, Knights’ centerfielder Jenna Kologie went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury that caused her to be taken away by an ambulance.
After a 30-minute delay, her replacement helped keep the Thunderbirds from tying the game. With one out, Angela Aragon caught a sinking line drive and threw a strike to the bag to double off the runner for an inning-ending double play.
Julia Murray made her presence felt both offensively and defensively over the final three innings. With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Murray lined a two-out single to drive home two runs to make it 3-0.
After the double play to end the third, another well-executed relay nabbed a T-Bird at third base before Mahwah finally got to the Knights in the bottom half of the fifth. Mahwah had three straight hits to start the inning with the last of those by Brenna Forgette putting Mahwah on the scoreboard with another run scoring on an error. With the bases loaded and two outs, Mahwah had a chance to grab the lead when Hannah Wichard whacked a hard-hit ball into the left-centerfield gap. Murray got a good jump on the ball and made a running catch to end the threat and preserve the lead.
Bergen Tech's Casey Calabrese picked up the win in the circle and also drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh.
The Knights got one of those runs back in the sixth. Victoria Villanueva singled and went to third on an outfield error. Iasiah Christmas then dropped down a bunt and on the throw to first Villanueva scampered home for a two-run lead.
For the second straight turn at bat, Mahwah started an inning with three straight singles. Bella Devine started it and Emily Pryor closed out the run with an RBI single to center. Forgette later lifted a sacrifice fly with Bella Orlandini beating the throw home to tie the game at 4.
After escaping further damage, Calabrese was due up fourth in the top of the seventh inning. After giving up the tying run, all she hoped for was a chance to get up with the go-ahead run on base. After two quick outs that prospect did not look all that plausible, but when Palumbo singled with two outs, Calabrese got her chance to make up for it. After taking a good cut but fouling off an outside fastball, Mahwah pitcher Julia Devine hit the same spot and Calabrese did more with it. She went with the pitch and roped it to the fence in right field to score Palumbo all the way from first to put Bergen Tech back in front. Murray followed with a run-scoring single for a 6-4 lead.
“I saw the same spot just the pitch before so I wanted to get a good swing,” said Calabrese. “Our team has come more together as a team and not as individuals. We all have a job to do. So when they tied it at 4, we knew what we had to do.”
Calabrese then shut the door in the seventh as Bergen Tech won its seventh game in a row. Palumbo paced the offense for Bergen Tech (10-1), going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Murray drove in three runs and Calabrese picked up the win in the circle, walking two batters and striking out three. Wichard, Pryor, Altamara, and Julia Devine each had two hits for Mahwah (6-3).
With virtually the entire starting lineup for the Knights’ having two years of varsity experience under its belt before this season, their confidence has grown considerably. What were once close losses are now turning into wins and what was unthinkable is now a possibility. When the Bergen County Tournament is seeded next week, the Knights are among a handful of teams who could receive the No. 1 seed. While that would be quite an accomplishment for a school not known for its softball program, it is not among their main goals for the rest of the season.
“We like the challenge of stepping up against these big teams and playing well against them,” added Calabrese. “We’re coming together more as a team and we’re playing better each game. Our goal is to play to the best of our own ability and see how far it takes us.”