South Falls Short Against Steinert in Coach Erbig’s Final Game
Union, NJ- Defending Group III Champion Middletown South Eagles softball team came to Kean University looking to repeat as Group III Champions but meet a Steinert team that was ready to deal the Eagles a little payback. After losing to the Eagles in the semi's last season 3-0 the Spartans paid back Middletown today 6-2 and captured the NJSIAA Group III Championship.
After 35 years at the helm of Middletown South, coach Tom Erbig has called it a career and the Erbig Era ends with a record of 743-231-1 which included 5 state titles and 16 sectional titles. He didn’t make a big announcement to distract from their preparation for today's game, but he did let his seniors know.
Afterwards coach Erbig said "it is just time, I almost made the decision last year but decided to come back for one more year since we had six seniors coming back and It was a good group to go out with."
Veteran ace and senior Maddie McMahon came into this season after dominating the circle for the Eagles last season and led Middletown South back to another state title and had hopes of doing the same again this season. As was the case in the SCT championship game, McMahon had strike zone issues and had an uncharacteristic four walks on the day.
As was the case after the SCT game coach Erbig came to the defense of his ace and said "I don't want to be that coach, but the guy behind the plate changed the demeanor of the game, we didn't get any balls that were on the inside third of the plate, they weren't called, she's throwing strikes and my catcher's not moving the glove, this kid has dominated all season long and to give up four walks in a game just is not her."
On top of getting stellar pitching all season long, Middletown South also prided itself on stellar defense. This was not the case in the championship game as the Eagles converted five costly errors.
More than the balls and strikes, coach Erbig added "come on, you expect to win a championship game with five errors, we didn't play well enough to win today, simple as that."
It was a disappointing game for the Eagles who came into this game with a record of 28-4 with 245 hits and 87 walks. Steinert's Kaley Wise kept the Eagles offense in check and allowed just 3 hits, 3 walks and struck out 5 as she improved her record to 11-3 this season.
Junior Sarah Corey had the only RBI for Middletown South which came in the third inning after she lined a double to right field scoring senior Ciara Sullivan. Senior Ally Massa scored the other Eagles run in the sixth inning after drawing a leadoff walk, moved to second on a sac bunt and scored on a throwing error off a bunt attempt from senior Jordyn Dellavalle.
Reflecting on his teams run this year, coach Erbig added "we weren't as strong as last years team but we got to the same point in terms of record and making the state final, this year i think we really over accomplished and thats a testament to the senior group that pushed to carry on the tradition of excellence here. Maddie had a big part in our success this season, without her in the circle i am not sure how far we get. She and the other seniors are a really special group of young ladies and have been a pleasure to coach."