When Timber Creek junior Julianna Coluccio entered last summer after a softball season in which the Chargers went 6-16 during her first year with the team, her goal for the 2021-’22 season was pretty clear.
“Win a playoff game,” she said. “That was the main one.”
Both hosting a home playoff game and winning a NJSIAA Softball Tournament game are things that have eluded the Chargers for nearly a decade, with Timber Creek’s last postseason victory having taken place during 2012-’13. But that streak was snapped Tuesday, when the team defeated Cherry Hill West 8-5 in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 tournament to improve its record this year to 10-8 thus far this season.
With the victory, Timber Creek also clinched its first winning season since 2012-’13.
“It felt huge to be able to do this,” Coluccio said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves the whole game; we stayed up and kept fighting, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do.”
Sophomore Devin Brandley pitched all seven innings for Timber Creek in the tournament victory, while also driving in a game-high five RBIs.She provided all the team’s run support through the first five innings, between a two-run double and a sacrifice fly that scored a go-ahead run.
After Cherry Hill West took a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning, the Chargers took it back after a wild pitch that scored two, before scoring three more runs off homers by Coluccio and Brandley for a five-run sixth inning.
The win, head coach Jamie Robertson said, encapsulated the Chargers’ season up to that point.
“The way we won this game was as a team,” she said. “I’ve been really pushing them this season to keep believing in themselves and to have that confidence at all times, and to win this game they did just that.
“It’s everything that we’ve been working and building towards this entire season … They proved that today.”
Brandley pitched a complete game in Timber Creek’s first-round postseason loss last year at Toms River South, something that, looking back, she saw as extremely beneficial in preparing for this year.
“Last year was kind of warming up to this season … “ Brandley said. “I took so much motivation from it. In my head … I kept thinking about how much I wanted to win that game last year only as a freshman, and I didn’t want that to happen again.”
According to Robertson, the Chargers’ roster this season is smaller than in recent years. But despite not having large numbers, the team’s passion all season long has fueled what’s become the strongest squad for the program in years.
“This is a really, really special group of girls,” Robertson said. “They give 100 percent at all times and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. They deserve this win more than anything.”