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Decker rallies Spartans in 8 innings


GLEN PARK — In Jackie Decker’s mind, the South Jefferson softball team is always down by two runs.

In everyone else’s mind Monday, the game was tied in the eighth inning when Decker stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on third base in the first showdown of the season between Decker’s undefeated Spartans and their Frontier League “B” Division rival, General Brown, which also entered the game without a loss.

Decker ripped the first pitch she saw up the middle of the infield to score the go-ahead run, and South Jefferson held on for a 4-3 extra-inning victory at Brownville Elementary School.

“I was ready to get the job done and I was ready to get my girls home,” Decker said. “See it and drive it. I saw it. I took it. And, it went.”

Decker drove in three of South Jefferson’s runs in separate at-bats. The junior catcher scored Angela Cataldo with a groundout in the first inning to get the scoring started for South Jefferson (5-0 overall and league). She then came through with a run-scoring single in the fourth to put the Spartans up 2-1.

Decker’s sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning advanced runners to second and third, setting up Heather Williams to bunt in the game-tying run in the next at-bat.

“She’s a travel ball kid, plays a lot of softball and she’s just an excellent, excellent hitter,” South Jefferson coach Steve Randall said.

Entering the eighth and throughout the entire game, Decker paced the Spartans’ dugout, yelling to her teammates, “We’re down two runs, we’re down by two, let’s get those two back.”

“Our energy throughout the game was phenomenal,” Decker said. “If you play like you’re down by two and you need to get those two runs back, you’re going to have that high energy the whole game.”

The Lions received a good effort from junior starting pitcher Katie Pitkin, but made too many mistakes to overcome.

General Brown committed an error to put the leadoff batter on base in the first and fourth innings. Those errors would eventually turn into a pair of runs for South Jefferson.

“It’s early in the season and we made some of those early-season mistakes,” General Brown coach Darrin Pitkin said. “We had some errors that cost us in the field and we made mistakes on the base paths.”

“South Jeff is a good team and we can always expect a battle with them,” Pitkin added.

Katie Pitkin went the distance in a 97-pitch effort, striking out seven to go with five hits and no walks in taking the loss.

Her counterpart, South Jefferson senior ace Brooke LaLone, struck out five and scattered five hits with no walks in a 119-pitch complete game victory.

“I feel like it was important to set the tone in the “B” Division,” LaLone said. “It’s always a good battle every year with General Brown and APW, and I feel like if we could get a win, it’d be a good start to our season and we’ll start on a positive note.”

Senior catcher Hope VanBrocklin and junior Deleha Decker provided the offense for General Brown (4-1).

VanBrocklin drove a pitch to deep left-center in the second inning that was misplayed and came all the way around to score on the play. She doubled with two outs in the eighth but was stranded to end the game.

Decker doubled, tripled and knocked in a run for the Lions.

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