THORNTON - New Jersey high school softball just ended a week ago. It was anybody’s best guess as to how the NJ Cheetah’s 18u – Mauro would gel in the opening days of the Colorado 4th of July. Two resounding wins on Tuesday answered all the questions.
The Cheetahs raced past the San Jose Lady Sharks, 13-3, in its first game in Colorado and held off a late surge from the Factory 18u Premier, 7-5, to stay undefeated.
“Coming out here, you really never know,” said head coach Gerry Mauro. “I didn’t know what to expect here in the 18u Open but I think the kids stepped up. What we’re trying to teach these girls is to play their game. It doesn’t matter if we’re here, over in Aurora or wherever. And I think they did that today.”
Already with an explosive offensive output in its first contest, the Cheetahs were eager for more against Factory.
Jackie Masone started the contest with a single, setting the Cheetahs off and running. Five straight New Jersey players reached base, allowing three runs to scamper across to set the tone.
“It was very important to get off to a hot start,” said Morgan Joseph. “You’re always looking for ways to grab momentum and keep it going.”
Hitting second in the New Jersey lineup, Joseph racked up four base hits for her team on Tuesday, including two bunt-singles.
“I just think about what is going to best help my team,” Joseph said. “That’s my job.”
Joseph’s attitude and aggressiveness led to three runs scored for the speedy right-hander.
“The aggressiveness is my favorite part of the game,” Joseph added. “It’s what makes it fun.”
While the Cheetahs were busy scoring runs on offense, starting pitcher Madison Lowry was busy keeping Factory off the scoreboard.
Not only did Lowry keep Factory to just two runs in four innings, she also helped herself out with three hits, a run scored, a double and four RBI.
Both Lowry and relief pitcher Elizabeth Gosse enjoyed a stellar defense behind them. Across seven innings of work, the two pitchers only combined for four strikeouts, leaving the defense to manufacture the rest of the outs.
“There’s a bunch of great girls out there,” said Gosse. “They go all out for every play. As a pitcher who likes to produce a lot of ground balls and pop-ups, that’s amazing to have behind me.”
Entering the final frame, New Jersey claimed a 7-2 advantage. Factory wasn’t quite done producing runs, though. Five consecutive singles pushed across three runs and had many Cheetah fans in the stands thinking negative thoughts.
Gosse wasn’t worried.
“I knew my defense was going to make the outs,” Gosse said. “I might’ve been nervous in the back of my mind but I’ve learned to quiet that down and focus on what needs to be done.”
Sure enough, Gosse forced a groundout to second and dialed up one last strikeout to seal the deal, 7-5.
“Coming out with two wins is invaluable,” said Mauro. “You can see their spirits. They’re in good spirits and they’ll carry that with them into the next game. That is so huge and so important to us.
“The key for us will be to keep them focused. Against my better judgment, I’m going to let them have a little fun tomorrow. Our job is to try to maintain that focus, try to keep them calm and light.”