HAMMONTON — With the 39th annual Hammonton Invitational playing a pivotal role, South Jersey will have a new No. 1-ranked softball team this week.
Bordentown showcased its impressive location for the ranking penthouse.
The Scotties advanced to the championship game where they saw their 13-game unbeaten streak snapped, but held off Garden State’s top-ranked team Donovan Catholic en route to a 5- 1.
The players graciously accepted the runner-up trophy, but it was easy to see that they would have preferred the bigger trophy in the league.
“I think they’ve proven here that they can play with the best teams in the state,” Bordentown head coach Nicole O’Leary said. “They were constantly hyper and intense, doing everything they could to stay in a game like this. That was great to see.
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After:Softball HS: 15 average rankings for South Jersey after Week 2
The Bordentown Bombers threw eight homers in the first three games of the tournament, three each for sluggers Sofia Peterson and Brianna Fischer as well as two by Kaci Benton in the semifinals, including a grand slam.
Peterson and Benton nearly made it to the final, but a strong breeze flipped their long drives, turning them into warning track withdrawals.
“I felt like our hitters were on point all weekend,” said Benton, who is second on the team with 18 hits and third in RBIs with 15.
“We really wanted to come here and win this tournament. We were undefeated and wanted it to continue. We fought every game like it was a state championship.
Benton says Bordentown (13-1) is a team of players who will do anything for their teammates. It certainly fits perfectly.
After starting in center field as a rookie, Benton moved to catcher this spring. Although new to the position, Benton looks like a veteran behind the dish, managing the talented pitching staff, which includes ace Allison Hoppe. She also chose two baserunners in the tournament.
“She really rises to the occasion with her game,” O’Leary said of her catcher. “She’s a phenomenal athlete and hard worker. Never caught before, she still took what we asked of her and what would work best for the team. It’s all about having a good attitude and a good work ethic.
“It was a good test for her, catching two games in a row.”
Benton’s bat lengthens a powerful Bordentown formation. She hit .409 last year with 27 hits, including eight for added bases.
Hitting mostly seventh, Benton has 18 hits in 38 at bats this season, good for a .474 average.
The latest Mean 15 rankings for South Jersey will be published online on Tuesday and will be in Wednesday’s print edition.
Donovan Catholic (13-0) showed why he earned first place in the state, going through the tournament with a combined score of 40-1.
Junior Julia Apostolakos won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, named after Barbara Ann Sbarra, a star Hammonton pitcher who died in 2001 following a car accident. Sbarra helped guide the Blue Devils to the Group 2 state title in 1986 and pitched a no-hitter in the Hammonton Invitational championship game.
Apostolakos struck out 13 en route to four hits, mowing down 15 in a row at one point in the championship game. She also hit a long home run.
The Griffins eliminated Kingsway, 8-0; Cherokee, 15-0, and Millville, 12-0, to reach the final. Bordentown became just the second team to score a run against Donovan Catholic, who allowed four runs in two games against Point Pleasant Boro.
Rancocas Valley recorded the biggest upset of the tournament, knocking out No. 1-ranked Clayton 7-2 in the first round. Emily Wyzykowski had three hits and two RBIs for the Red Devils to prevent the Clippers from facing Bordentown in the quarterfinals.
Millville was a surprise semifinalist with upset wins over Cedar Creek, 3-2, and Delsea, 14-4, on Saturday.
Brooke Joslin had a pair of hits and an RBI while Brielle Dixon had two runs in the win over Cedar Creek. Joslin added three more hits and Olivia Stetler hit three-runs to power the ‘Bolts to victory over Delsea.
Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, the Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story to tell, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or email [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.