Lady Knights surprise even themselves in GMCT loss

The Old Bridge High School softball team entered Saturday’s Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinal contest against Middlesex with a team batting average of just .216, but the Lady Knights showed a lot of grit in losing to Middlesex.

While coach Sue Klein’s team is not best known for its hitting, Old Bridge is pretty stingy when it comes to allowing runs, so the 9-8 loss to Middlesex was quite surprising on several counts.

After scoring a run in the top of the first inning, Old Bridge found itself down, 4-1, after three frames.

The Lady Knights got a pair of runs in the top of the fourth, but Middlesex seemingly took control by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 9-4 lead.

"I thought that inning would never end," Klein said. "Everything seemed to go wrong. It was the worst inning of the year."

The Lady Knights made two errors, and a batter who struck out ended up on second base and a run scored as the result of a passed ball.

Take that .216 average and combine it with the fact that Old Bridge allows few runs — opponents have scored three or more run only three times this season — and the game appeared to be over.

Yet the Lady Knights bounced back. Aided by a trio of walks and a costly error, they rallied for four runs in the top of the sixth. Jen Vitorino and Shannon Halstead both drove home runs and Nicole Riggio doubled during the inning.

With the score 9-7 in the top of the seventh, Riggio led off with a double and scored on Kayla Warman’s single. With one out, the Lady Knights had runners on second and third, yet were unable to push the tying run across.

"If you told me before the game that we were going to score eight runs and lose, I wouldn’t have believed you," Klein said. "We really gave the game away in that fifth inning. Still, the girls refused to quit and they really fought back — they deserve a lot of credit."

The outlook, however, remains bright for Old Bridge, which won the GMC tourney for the first time last year. The Lady Knights are loaded with sophomores and juniors, and most of the starters will be back, including pitchers Jackie Battaglino and Amy Sievert.

— Warren Rappleyea