By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN – Although losing to Ocean Township on Monday, Middletown North was fortunate in that it was a non-Division game and it didn’t affect the A North standings, where the Lions share the championship with Howell.
Sophomore first baseman Christine Gebhardt and senior pitcher Audrie Thomas combined their talents to help Middletown Township High School North avenge an early season setback to the Eagles of Middletown High School South.
Gebhardt blasted a solo home run over the center-field fence in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 deadlock and provide the winning run while Thomas tossed a three-hitter and walked just two.
Thomas struck out just one batter, but she received excellent fielding support, including a 5-3-5 double play to end a South scoring threat in the second inning.
“My best pitch was a drop curve,” said Thomas, who will be playing softball at Fairleigh Dickinson University next season. “I don’t use it all the time, but I go to it when I needed it.”
Gebhardt followed up Friday’s home run with a grand slam Saturday in a 9-4 win over Raritan. That gave her a Shore Conference leading seven for the season. She hit a pair of three-run homers several weeks ago in a win over Red Bank Catholic. She hit only two as a freshman.
“There is no reason (for the power surge),” Gebhardt said. “I just hit the ball where it is pitched. My home run today was a pitch down the middle. It’s always good to hit against South. You just try not to get nervous.”
“It was just one pitch,” South coach Tom Erbig said. “She is a good hitter and got her bat on the ball. Lambert pitched a great game for me, but we are not playing as well as I would have liked.”
South scored its lone run in the first inning when Hannah Milano singled with one out and Ally Massa followed with an RBI double.
North tied the game in the fourth off losing pitcher Tiffani Lambert, who had a pitched a fine game, when Gebhardt singled, moved to second on a bunt, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Riley Kernan’s infield out.
“This was awesome,” North coach Mallory Kirchner said. “The girls did what they were supposed to do out in the field.”
Following Gebhardt’s home run, South threatened in the top of the seventh. Lambert was safe at second on a two-out throwing error, the only miscue in the game for either side.
Alex Corrigan then hit a sinking liner to center that, for a moment, looked as if it would drop in for a base hit, but center fielder Kate Quinn made a diving catch to end the game.