Indian Hills turns a crisis moment into a semifinal spot

Meg Roessler delivered the game-tying hit in the bottom of the 10th inning in Indian Hills' eventual 3-2 victory over Ramapo in the Bergen County Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday.

PALISADES PARK – Running off the field after the top of the 10th inning against Ramapo in the Bergen County Tournament quarterfinals, Indian Hills was in a crisis situation. Although the Braves would start the bottom half of the inning with a runner on second base the odds were still stacked against them trailing by a run with the bottom two players in the batting order leading off. The situation was far from ideal but there was never any panic from the Braves. This is what this team has thrived on all season and it showed again in their most important game thus far.

Meg Roessler, the No. 9 batter, delivered the game-tying hit and Meg Sears drove her home on the very next pitch as fourth-seeded Indian Hills won a thriller, 3-2, over fifth-seeded Ramapo to advance to the Bergen County semifinals on Saturday at Overpeck Park in Palisades Park.

“When you have last licks you have the last chance to win,” said Indian Hills' head coach Joe Leicht. “Taylor got out of a couple of big spots and we came up with some big hits at the end.”

Indian Hills set the tone early when Deirdre Campbell stroked a leadoff double then beat a throw to the plate on a fielder's choice for a 1-0 lead after two innings.

Ramapo answered back with a run in the top of the fourth. Starting pitcher Sydney Samuel helped her own cause with a one-out double and Eva Purvin followed with an RBI single to knot the score at 1. The damage could have been worse as the Green Raiders put runners on second and third with one out. Indian Hills' pitcher Taylor Palmieri was on point when the going got tough getting two ground ball outs to keep the score where it was.

Savannah Ring singled in the run that gave Ramapo a 2-1 lead in the top of the 10th inning.

It was still 1-1 through nine innings, which brought the international tiebreaker rule. For the 10th inning and beyond both teams would start with a runner on second base for the first batter of the inning. Ramapo had no intentions of the game going beyond the 10th inning with Savannah Ring singling to drive home Jenna DeLuccia to give the Green Raiders their first lead of the game, 2-1.

The pressure was now squarely on the shoulders of the Braves as the game headed to the bottom half of the 10th. However, this seasoned group viewed it as just another challenge. It is something that the Braves have prepared for both physically and mentally from long before the season even started.

“We play a tough schedule and that prepares us to be in games like this one,” said Indian Hills' head coach Joe Leicht. “Ramapo has had a great season and Frank (Baldino) is a hell of a coach. Two freshman pitchers in the circle today that played with the poise of seniors. We knew it was going to be tough but we had to keep battling.”

Nicolette Perrone led off the inning and reached on an error to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Roessler then stepped up and went after a first-pitch fastball that she lined for a game-tying single.

“I'm not a home run hitter so I wasn't going to swing for the fences. It was important just to hit the ball hard,” said Roessler. “My focus was just to make contact and hit the ball hard on the ground or hit a line drive. This game was the game we've been waiting for and we knew we had to step it up in the tenth innings. Every year is supposed to be the year we drop off. That motivates us to make these runs in the county tournament.”

Meg Sears knocked in the game-winning run for Indian Hills, which will play Old Tappan in the semifinals on Saturday.

With the game-winning run now in scoring position Sears came to bat with the same approach as Roessler had one pitch earlier. Sears drilled a sinking line-drive to left that skipped past the Ramapo left fielder with Perrone coming around to score winning run as Indian Hills reached the Bergen County semifinals for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, the only team in Bergen County to do so over that span.

“I always think if the first pitch is there that it's yours to swing at,” said Sears. “I knew that with two runners on that their pitcher didn't want to fall behind in the count. In that situation the first pitch is probably the best you'll see in an at-bat so I took a chance and it worked out.”

Palmieri put forth a gutsy effort to pick up the win for Indian Hills (19-5). She went all 10 innings allowing six hits with three walks and five strikeouts. No Braves players had two hits in the game but eight of the nine starters in the batting order had one hit. Samuel gave up eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts for Ramapo (17-4).

Indian Hills will get a familiar opponent next Saturday in the Bergen County semifinals. The Braves will take on Northern Valley/Old Tappan, whom they beat 6-5 in the season-opener for both teams. Both teams have gotten better and are brimming with confidence right now.

“If you're not ready to play in a game like today and another tough one in the semifinals I don't know what else you could want as a softball player,” added Roessler. “Every day we talk about being in these games. From practice to the bus ride up here to coming off the field for the bottom of the tenth inning we were all locked in and ready to go. This win feels great but we have to put it behind us and try to do it all again next Saturday.”