The Montgomery High softball team spends the regular season getting taking on the best competition it can find in an effort to be ready for the state tournament.
While that strategy might wind up withe Cougars being seeded lower than they would like, it hasn’t hurt them when it comes to play on the field.
After winning the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional title as a No. 6 seed a year ago, Montgomery is the No. 5 seed in this year’s Central Jersey, Group 4 field.
The Cougars opened the state tournament with a 4-3 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro South before defeating fourth-seeded South Brunswick, 2-0, on Monday.
“We tell the kids that seeding does not matter,” said Montgomery coach Bryan Upshaw, whose team took a 16-8 record into Thursday’s scheduled state sectional semifinal at Hunterdon Central in Flemington. “Last year we won it as a six seed and this year we’re seeded fifth. It’s all about survive and advance from there. That’s why we play the regular season games we play, to be prepared for this competition.”
The Montgomery baseball team also played in the state sectional tournament at South Brunswick on Monday. The 12th-seeded Cougars dropped an 11-3 decision to the Vikings in Central Jersey, Group 4. Nate Ryan had three hits, including a home run, and drove in all three runs in the loss for Montgomery. Ryan McKenna also collected two hits.
In the softball team's opening victory in the Central Jersey, Group 4 tournament, Samantha Mallen recorded two hits and scored a pair of runs. Madison Wilson delivered two hits and drove in two runs. It was Wilson’s single that drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Against South Brunswick, Tori Ferraiolo pitched a one-hitter and walked just two while recording 11 strikeouts. The offense was provided by Erin Howard, Reese Wilson and Ferraiolo who each produced two hits. Howard and Francesca Fogg each drove in a run.
“The game previous we had a rough start as a team,” Fogg said of the triumph over West Windsor-Plainsboro South. “Overall it was rocky. Today we went in and forgot about our errors and everything and we were more focused on what is ahead and making every play and making sure there were no errors. Batting wise, we have some off days. Today we were were on and able to make some clutch hits.”
The Cougars scored a run in the second inning, which turned out to be all the support Ferraiolo would need.
“Tori was firing the ball,” Upshaw said. “We said the key component for today was to play an errorless game and that is where our defense did. When we play good defense good things happen. We made some key plays and had some clutch hits. We had some mistakes on the bases, but that is going to happen. But I am happy with them and I always tell them I want them playing their best softball at the end of May and beginning of June.”
Fogg, a senior, has been part of the program that has won the last two Central Jersey, Group 4 titles. It’s a tournament in which they’ve always seemed to play their best.
“This is my senior year, so I have been with our 24-3 season and our 19-8 season,” Fogg said. “I have been through it all and learned to go into it with a blank slate. It doesn’t matter what the number is. You are going to go in there and play your game and not worry about their record.
“We have been saying for the past three years that everyone is out to get us. Everyone wants to advance and we managed to advance to the next round.”
The Cougars have also proved to be a team that can rely on anyone in the lineup to come through, which was the case in the first two games.
“We are very adamant about everyone being a family,” Fogg said. “We all pick each other up if we are having an off day. We go out of our way and make sure our energy is up and that no matter what happens off the field that on the field we are close and tight and have each other’s backs.”