By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Tuesday’s South Jersey Group II playoff softball game had all the makings of a down-to-the-wire contest.
But Manchester Township broke it open late and knocked Middle Township out in the first round.
Tenth-seeded Manchester exploded for eight runs in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie and eventually posted a 10-1 victory.
Trailing 1-0 after 2 ½ innings, Middle tied the game in the bottom of the third. Emma Messer reached on an error, stole second and moved to third on a groundout before Amani Mejia’s clean single to left sent Messer home.
In the fifth, a couple of errors, a fluke base hit that traveled only about 15 feet and a couple of hard-hit balls allowed Manchester to have its big inning.
Middle fell to 8-15 with the loss.
Middle pitcher Gabby Cruz recorded a milestone early in the game, striking out her 100th batter of the season. Cruz reached the century mark despite sitting out the first 30 days of the season after transferring from Our Lady of Mercy Academy over the winter.
Alyssa Carino had two hits and three RBI and Caitlin Lynch gave up just two hits and a run on the mound for Manchester.