Jiana Maniscalco hit a walk-off two-run home run to lead Freehold Township to a 14-12 comeback victory over Marlboro in an A-North battle on Thursday afternoon.
Maniscalco stayed alive despite being down in the count with two strikes. After several foul balls in a row, she roped a home run to right center field to overcome a seven run deficit.
“It was really a team effort. My team did everything they could to get me in that position to where I could produce for them, and I knew I had to stick it out for them. This was a big win for us, and I had my team in mind and knew I had to lock in and take that pitch,” Maniscalco told Jersey Sporting News in a post-game interview.
The Marlboro Mustangs held a 12-5 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, but Township’s bats came alive as they rallied for nine unanswered runs.
Marlboro got off to a quick start after Skyla Campisi hit a two-run single in the first. But the Patriots leveled the game at two apiece when Nikki Lusnia brought home two on a single.
The Mustangs broke the game open in the third inning, batting through the lineup and tacking on seven runs. Adison Ditillo and Amy Fitzpatrick each had an RBI, Alyson Levito had two RBI, while Campisi brought in another. Runners also scored on wild pitches, making it a 9-2 game.
Freehold stayed in the game though following another RBI by Lusnia and a Sienna Smith two-run home run—the first such of her varsity career.
The bats stayed hot for Marlboro in the fourth inning as three more runs gave the Mustangs a 12-5 lead that was maintained until the bottom of the fifth. Alexa Barbera hit an RBI single, and Dana Williams hit a two-run single to put Freehold within four runs at 12-8.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Patriots closed the gap more, with Ashley Viesta and Maniscalco each recording an RBI.
The Mustangs went down in order in the top of the seventh, up 12-10.
Olivia Smith recorded two RBI to lock the game at 12 apiece. With no outs, Marlboro’s right fielder, Ditillo, caught a fly ball and threw a runner out at home to get the double play.
Freehold Township’s new varsity coach, Johnny Sciarappa, knew on a fly ball he was going to send Olivia Smith home. She was called out on the throw home, but it advanced Lila Williams to third who Sciarappa said was ready to go home on an errant pitch.
Maniscalco stepped to the plate for a battle with pitcher Stephanie Ciravolo. Two outs, 1-2 count. Maniscalco stayed alive, fouling off several pitches before connecting with a pitch and blasting it over the fence for a two-run homer to win the game for Township.
“Our whole coaching staff, they’re my rock,” Maniscalco said. “They had confidence in me the whole time. My first at-bat was a little shaky. The first inning altogether we didn’t really produce the way we wanted to. But we had that strong backbone with our coaches just keeping their confidence in us and telling us we got this which really kept us in the game and lead to the win.”
“In this game there is no clock. There is no time. There is always a chance for a rally. You have to pitch to 21 outs. Marlboro did a great job to get 20 of them and we just got the big hit when we needed to at the end.”
Freehold Township now sit at 2-2, while Marlboro moves to 3-3.
“I think this (win) says it is just the beginning for us. We come out and have this big reputation and we are doing everything we can—working together, working hard at practice, great coaching staff. We are all working together to face these other great teams so we just continue to work hard so we can continue to win,” Maniscalco said.
Looking ahead, the Patriots face another A-North team away at Middletown North on Saturday, while the Mustangs look to get back in the win column in Old Bridge on Saturday.