JERSEY SHORE - Rebecca Caputo loves catching. She is outstanding at it and proved it as a freshman last year.
But Caputo's catching days appear over.
As good as she is behind the plate, she is becoming even better inside the pitching circle. The sophomore showed it again Tuesday, throwing a brilliant 2-hit shutout against the district's highest-scoring team. Caputo threw her best game this season, Hannah Yost and Brianne Brewer ignited a stellar defense and Holly Peacock scored on a second-inning error as Jersey Shore blanked defending District 4 Class AAA champion Milton, 1-0.
"Her true love is to catch and she was like, 'if you need me to pitch, I'll pitch,' but if she had her choice she'd be back there catching," Jersey Shore coach Chris Glenn said. "I give her nothing but respect for doing what is best for the team and not what she wants. I can't say enough about that. That's the true team spirit and that's what you want."
Caputo improved to 7-1 and has been at the heart of Jersey Shore's turnaround. The Bulldogs (8-5, 8-3 HAC-I) were 1-3 when Caputo made her pitching debut. They have won seven of nine since and now have wins against the league's first and second-place teams, while moving two games behind leader Mifflinburg. She has allowed just one run in her last 15 innings and Tuesday was her masterpiece.
The Black Panthers (8-2, 8-2) had scored at least seven runs and delivered at least nine hits in each of their first nine games. They also had rallied from a four-run seventh-inning deficit earlier this year to beat Jersey Shore, 11-10.
Yesterday, Caputo allowed just two singles and threw only 68 pitches, letting one runner advance past first base. Five times she retired the side in order, three times doing so on just seven pitches.
"It feels good," Caputo said. "The team is playing together a little better now."
"She's a really good pitcher for being a sophomore," Yost said. "I trust her with every pitch she makes and our defense is behind her 100 percent."
Jersey Shore's defense has come a long way since that 1-3 start and is playing as well as any unit around. Caputo was comfortable throwing to contact because the defense was so strong. Left fielder Jess Allen made two nice plays, including a catch that left Bethany Brennan stranded at third in the fifth inning, while second baseman Averie Lorson, Holly Peacock and Yost took turns making big plays.
Brewer, though, might have been the game's hidden star. The talented first baseman made several good plays and was adept at making long stretches to make sure throws beat speedy Milton runners by a step. They were little plays but in a game decided by one run they added up to something huge.
"Brianne Brewer made some plays tonight that if it wasn't for them they would have had baserunners on and the outcome might have been different," Glenn said. "I can't say enough about how well she did tonight."
Yost and Brewer combined to make one of the game's best and biggest plays in the seventh inning. Mary Adams smashed a ball into the hole between shortstop and third base to lead off the inning. Yost made a nice stop on the outfield grass and in one motion made a strong throw to first. Brewer stretched as far as she could and caught the perfect throw that beat Adams by a step.
Two batters and four pitches later, Caputo caught a pop-up and Jersey Shore earned one of its biggest wins.
"I didn't think I was going to have her but the throw got there and Brianne got me. She's always there for me," Yost said. "We needed to win this game. We really needed this and we won."
Jersey Shore produced the game's only run in the second inning. Bloomsburg University-bound Peacock drew a lead-off walk and was headed for second when Bryce Hillyard dropped a sacrifice bunt near home. When the ensuing throw sailed into right field, Peacock sped home and Jersey Shore went up 1-0.
Milton pitcher Taylor Batman was terrific and actually took a no-hitter into the fifth inning despite her team trailing. Batman threw 4 2/3 innings of no-hit softball, allowed just two hits and threw only 86 pitches against what had been a surging offense. It was a much different game than the first time the last seven district champions met, but the result was like so many other in this riveting series-close and exciting.
"I thought there was going to be a lot of runs like last time and it might come down to us having to score in the seventh," Yost said. "I felt like we were more focused today and we wanted to win and we did it."
Milton000 000 0-0 2 1
Jersey Shore010 000 x-2 2 0
Taylor Batman and Mackenna Miller. Rebecca Caputo and Bryce Hillyard. W-Caputo, (7-1). L-Batman, (5-2).
Top Milton hitters: Bethany Brennan 1-2; Kiah Brink 1-2. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Holly Peacock 2 BBs, R; Jess Allen 1-2; Katie Cowfer 1-3.
Records: Jersey Shore 8-5, 8-3 HAC-I. Milton 8-2, 8-2.