Cardinal softball squad remain unbeaten


By: Steve Feitl
   It was a busy week for the Lawrence High School softball team, and not just because of the amount of games played, but rather because of the amount of innings endured.
   The Cardinals (4-0) played two extra-inning contests this week — and nearly had a third — but survived all of them to keep their undefeated streak alive.
   Head coach Keith Fithen knew it would be a long game on April 4 with rival West Windsor-Plainsboro South on the schedule.
   "Every time we play there, it comes down to the very end," he said.
   This game would be no different.
   The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning with Emily Panasowich on the mound. But an error in the sixth led to a Pirate run and another miscue in the seventh knotted the game at 2-2.
   After two scoreless extra innings, the Lawrence girls got something going in the top of the 10th. With two baserunners on second and third and two outs, Diane Van Arsdale lifted a ball into centerfield. The Pirate outfielder misplayed the ball, allowing it to drop to the ground and bringing the two runners home.
   It was a bit of retribution for the Cardinals, who lost a game to the Pirates last year in similar fashion, Fithen noted.
   With the 4-2 lead, Lawrence secured a double play and the young Cardinals shut the door on West Windsor-Plainsboro.
   "With a lot of sophomores playing different positions, you never know what will happen," Fithen said. "We were successful in this game because we were resilient."
   Two days later, the Cardinals returned to their home field for a game against South Brunswick — a team that had handily defeated Lawrence a year ago.
   Jessica Goodstein took to the mound and did a splendid job of keeping the Cardinals in the game.
   "This season, our story has been one or two individuals stepping up each game and carrying us through," Fithen said.
   After finishing the standard seven innings in a 1-1 tie, Lawrence got back to work in the bottom of the eighth. Tiffany Robert drew a walk and moved to third on an Amy Frankel single. A wild pitch was all it took for Robert to cross home and give the Cardinals the thrilling 2-1 extra-inning win.
   "The girls were excited and very satisfied with the way they played," Fithen said.
   After two consecutive extra inning games, the Cardinals could have used a bit of a breather, but Monday’s game against Princeton was another nail-biter.
   After the top of the third inning, Lawrence was down, 3-0.
   "This was, without a doubt, the worst game we’ve played as a unit this year," Fithen said. "Nothing was going right. It was an adversity they hadn’t seen before."
   In between innings, Fithen tried to light a fire under his team and assured them that the following practice would be a grueling one unless the team woke up.
   "They responded well," Fithen laughed after the game.
   The Cardinals struck for four runs in the bottom of the third, powered by a two-run single by Robert.
   But Princeton eventually tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh.
   But rather than face their third-straight extra-inning game, the Cardinals got the job done in the bottom of the inning.
   Scouting had proven the Princeton squad was weak defending against the bunt so Fithen instructed his team to bunt three consecutive times. All were successful. With the bases loaded, Goodstein put the ball in play and brought home the game-winning run.
   "We struck out nine times during the game, but when we needed to put the ball in play, we were successful," Fithen said.
   With the win, the young, inexperienced Cardinals remained the young, inexperienced and undefeated Cardinals — something that impresses their coach.
   "I’m so proud of them," Fithen said. "From the perspective of the coaching staff, we can’t be any happier with how far they’ve come."