JERSEY SHORE - Extra innings were needed the first time these two league rivals got together, and Tuesday's contest continued in that form, finally being decided in the ninth inning.
And with extra innings becoming the staple of this year's Jersey Shore and Milton rivalry, then solid pitching falls into what's expected by two of the state's premier teams.
Tuesday's contest lived up to both billings.
Arika Stopper pitched out of jams for the Bulldogs with her counterpart, Kristi Weaver, holding a perfect game into the seventh, the latter of which was needed to forced extra innings prior to Milton escaping with a 1-0, nine inning win.
"We played the game, but we came up short," Jersey Shore coach Chirs Glenn said. "We threw everything we could at her (Weaver) and they made the plays. There's nothing you can do on a day like that."
Stopper seemed to have a knack for getting out of jams throughout the contest. In an effort to stay with Weaver, who had a perfect game going through seven innings, Stopper repeatedly pitched her way out of trouble to keep the Bulldogs even.
"We went nine innings with a very good team," Glenn said. "I'm not at all disappointed in how we played."
Milton was able to get to Stopper on more than one occasion, turning singles into doubles with its aggressive style of base running. The Black Panthers stole three bases in the contest, but as effective as their aggressive style on the bases was, it also spoiled chances to end the contest in regulation.
In the sixth frame, Justine Marks battled through an eight-pitch at-bat, ultimately reaching first on a walk. A stolen base followed and Linea Brouse's single on the ensuing at-bat opened the door for Marks to attempt to go home. The Bulldogs relay appeared to give Brouse all the time she needed, electing to go to third instead of home.
Holly Peacock, though, had different plans, catching the ball and still beating Marks to the plate.
"We practiced going to the different bases and it was a head's up play by the third baseman," Glenn said.
Jersey Shore was excellent in the field, staying with Milton (10-1, 9-1) despite Weaver's six-plus perfect innings.
Hannah Yost was exceptional from short, helping end the threat in the sixth and following that up with a put out to end the seventh. And as good as she was in regulation, she was even better when it mattered the most.
Brouse opened the eighth with the hardest hit of the contest, a line drive into left field. The Black Panthers continued to be aggressive, turning a sure fire double into a close play at third for a triple.
A quick meeting at the mound followed before Bethany Brennan connected with a hard grounder to Yost at short. With the ball in her glove, Yost gave a quick look to Brouse and then appeared to go to first, before whipping the ball to a waiting Peacock at third for the tag out.
"We teach them to be aggressive on the bases," Keefer said. "The one there at third base she wandered a little bit too far. That happens when you're dealing with kids and we'll accept that. As long as they stay aggressive I'll live with the results."
Weaver's dominance from the circle allowed Milton to challenge its base runners a little more than usual. But once in extra innings, even the aggressive Black Panthers were forced to play a more conservative game, adding a level of difficulty to Yost's look-off at short to get Brouse, the go-ahead runner at third.
"She keeps us in every game," Keefer said of Weaver. "Early in the year she gave up early runs and seemed to have straightened that out. She's tough."
The disappointment on the Milton player's faces was hard to hide after Brouse was thrown out, but the team received a gift on the next at-bat when a ball was mishanlded in the infield. A wild-pitch gave Keefer a chance to continue the attack, advancing both players an extra base. Derr then followed with her squeeze, earning the game's only RBI to get the win.
"We knew we had to keep our head's up and couldn't let down," Weaver said. "We just knew it was the last league game we'll see them this season. We had to put it to them."
Milton 000 000 001-1 8 0
Jersey Shore 000 000 000-0 1 3
Kristi Weaver and Mackenna Miller. Arika Stopper and Recca Caputo. WP-Weaver. LP-Stopper.
Top Milton hitters: Linea Brouse 2-4, 3B; Bailey Derr 2-3, RBI, SB. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Stopper 1-3.
Records: Milton 10-1 (9-1). Jersey Shore 9-2 (7-2).
Next: Jersey Shore at Shikellamy, Thursday, 4:30.