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Bridgewater Rides Gonella's Arm Into County Final

Pitcher's bid for a no-hitter broken up in sixth inning as Panthers hold on to beat Montgomery.

Behind strong pitching and timely hitting, the third-seeded softball team ousted second-seeded Montgomery 6-5 in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals Saturday.

Bridgewater (14-6) advances to face top-seeded and defending champ Hillsborough (15-2), which beat Watchung Hills in the other semifinal, in next Saturday's championship game at the Nap Torpey Athletic Complex at 7:30 p.m.

IN SHORT

Bridgewater held Montgomery scoreless through five innings while taking advantage of scoring opportunities in the third and fourth innings.

In the third inning, the Panthers plated three runs with two outs. Sophomore Jordan Stephenson had a double off the base of the fence that scored senior Katie Fanning. Junior Brianna Arends reached on an error. Senior Brie Jordan knocked in the second and third runs with a hit.

Sophomore Nikki Thomas got the offense started in the fourth inning with a hit, followed by steal of second. Sophomore Nicole Braun drove in Thomas. Fanning picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Junior Brianna Arends brought home one more run on a single to cap off the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Bridgewater-Raritan nearly let the game slip away. Alicia Gonella gave up her first hit of the day, followed by a couple of fielding errors, a wild pitch and four more Montgomery hits led to four unearned runs, but the Panthers managed to hold on.


PANTHER OF THE GAME

Alicia Gonella—The senior pitcher had a no-hitter through five innings. She struck out four batters and allowed only one earned run. With freshman pitcher Megan Colline out of the lineup after suffering an injury earlier in the week, it was Gonella's game to win or lose.

OTHER KEY PERFORMANCES

Nicole Braun—The sophomore designated hitter had a pair of singles, two stolen bases and an RBI.

Nikki Thomas —The sophomore left fielder collected two singles and stole two bases.

THEY SAID IT

"We batted, 1 through 9. A lot of people that don't normally step up stepped up today. It was just that we came together as a team. Even on the bus ride here the energy was so high. From the beginning this was our goal," Brielle Jordan said of reaching the county final.

"We all have each other's backs. We're able to pick each other up after making an error in the field," senior pitcher Alicia Gonella said on rebounding after the bottom of the sixth inning and how that situation will help the team when facing Hillsborough in the final.

COACH'S TAKE

"All season long we've been hitting one through nine. This is the deepest team I've ever had."—Head Coach Sandy Baranowski

"Hillsborough's beat us twice already this year. Outside of Hunterdon Central, they're probably the best team in the [Skyland] conference. We played them both last week, and Hillsborough played us tougher than Central did. The fact that we got this far, we really have nothing to lose."—Head Coach Sandy Baranowski

UP NEXTRoxbury Tuesday at North Bridge Street Park at 3:45 p.m.

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