Lady Knights made the best of their opportunities

By Warren Rappleyea
Staff Writer

By Warren Rappleyea
Staff Writer

The Old Bridge High School softball team completed an outstanding campaign by winning the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament, and with most of its players back next year the future looks bright for the Lady Knights.

Coach Sue Klein’s team went 20-8 on the year and won the GMC title with an exciting 2-1 victory over South Plainfield. Although the Lady Knights batted just .236 as a team, pitching and defense, combined with timely hits, carried Old Bridge throughout the campaign.

"We won a lot of big games," said Klein, whose team also defeated J.P. Stevens and Edison in the GMC tourney. "Even the Hunterdon Central game was a plus for a young team like ours. Losing 1-0 to a top team like that is not a bad thing."

Old Bridge also qualified for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs, where they opened with a 2-1 win against Stevens in 14 innings. A trio of freshmen ignited the game-winning rally. Nicole Riggio and Jen Zitorino produced back-to-back singles, and after Crystal Szebenyi sacrificed, the winning run scored on an error. The Lady Knights were eliminated in the second round after a 1-0, 13-inning loss against Hunterdon Central.

"The girls proved a lot to themselves and to others," Klein said.

"In the past they played inconsistently, and that changed this season. Every one of them had their hand in our success; they all had their moments."

Senior Amanda Meatto, who was named MVP of the GMC Tournament, was arguably the Lady Knights’ best player.

On the mound, she went 19-6 with a 0.55 ERA, and more important, sported a .967 fielding percentage. Offensively, Meatto batted .274 and led the team with 15 RBIs, while scoring 15 runs herself.

Freshman third baseman Jackie Battaglino led the Lady Knights with a .330 average, while committing only seven errors at the hot corner. Shortstop Jaime Capra, a junior, hit .287, scored 19 times and drove home 10 runs.

Illustrating Old Bridge’s penchant for timely hitting are freshmen Riggio and Zitorino, who hit .253 and .221, respectively, but contributed at key times. Zitorino went 3-3 with three RBIs against Edison in the GMC tourney and drove home the tying run against South Plainfield.

And junior outfielder Dana Hadzimichalis batted just .164, yet contributed four game-winning hits.

Catcher Brianne Regan was a defensive stalwart. The senior threw out 15 of 22 base runners and had no passed balls charged against her. She also had six sacrifices at the plate.

The Lady Knights received solid play from senior outfielder Jen Moran, sophomore outfielders Ashley Kalbach and Shannon Halstead, who both missed time with injuries, and versatile freshman Jackie Murphy, who is likely to catch next season.

"This team played together and had good leadership," Klein said.

"At times we had five freshmen in the lineup, and they never played like freshmen. They had poise and confidence. And they should be even better next year."