EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Makayla Veneziale plans to ice her arm and rest Tuesday afternoon.
The St. Joseph Academy senior softball pitcher has earned the break.
Veneziale excelled on the mound and at the plate as the Wildcats beat Egg Harbor Township 2-1 in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division game Monday afternoon. St. Joe (12-0) is ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11. EHT (7-3) is No. 11.
Monday’s win was the sixth game the Wildcats had played in the past five days.
“This is a huge win,” Veneziale said. “We’ve been waiting for this game for a while. We really wanted this one, and we got it.”
Veneziale allowed six hits and struck out 11 in seven innings. She was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored.
“My change-up was working good,” Veneziale said. “It kept them off-balance, especially their good hitters who can really hit.”
EHT and St. Joe are traditional powers. They entered Monday’s game undefeated in the American Division. It is unusual for these schools to meet in the regular season in any sport because EHT is one of the largest schools in South Jersey in terms of enrollment and St. Joe is one of the smallest.
But this season, the CAL aligned its divisions based primarily on teams’ past records.
“When you see EHT in your column, you open your eyes right away,” St. Joe coach Les Olson said. “You don’t have to go much further to know who you have to beat.”
Veneziale held EHT hitless for the first three innings but then pitched out of jams in the final four frames. Whenever things got a bit nervewracking, Veneziale would step out of the circle and take some deep breaths.
“Then I get back in (the circle),” she said, “and do my thing.”
Veneziale scored St. Joe’s first run in the top of the fourth when her bloop down the right-field line turned into a triple. She didn’t care that the hit wasn’t a line drive into one of the gaps.
“It doesn’t matter how you get on base as long as you get on base,” Veneziale said.
Xelynne Conde then drove Veneziale in with a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 1-0 St. Joe.
The Wildcats made it 2-0 in the top of the sixth on a successfully executed squeeze play. Veneziale got the bunt down, and Macie Jacquet scored from third base.
“We practice (squeezes) every day in practice,” Veneziale said. “You never know when you might need it.”
EHT kept the pressure on the Wildcats. The Eagles got four hits in the final two innings but could score just one run.
Sienna Walterson’s RBI single in the bottom of the sixth cut St. Joe’s lead to 2-1. EHT got the tying run to second base with one out in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, but Veneziale struck out the next two batters swinging to end the game.
“She has grown maturity-wise in the circle,” Olson said.
Veneziale and her teammates better enjoy Tuesday’s day off. The Wildcats are scheduled to play five more games between Wednesday-Saturday.
After the pandemic canceled last season, the Wildcats are relishing every moment on the field this year.
“As long as we keep the energy going,” Veneziale said, “I’m sure things will go (well).”
St. Joseph 000 101 0 – 2 4 1
EHT 000 001 0 – 1 6 2
2B. EHT. Walterson
3B. SJ. Veneziale; EHT. Biddle
WP: Veneziale LP: Korsak
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