|VIDEO: Gunderson guides Northern Highlands past Vernon|
With her team struggling to get hits, Northern Highlands pitcher Sarah Gunderson held the fort in a first-round state tournament softball tilt. Then when the Highlanders finally built a threat, Gunderson came up with the game's biggest hit.
Gunderson's RBI single led to a three-run rally in the sixth inning as fifth-seeded Northern Highlands outlasted Vernon, 3-0. In the circle, the senior fired a three-hit shutout and struck out nine batters.
Vernon pitcher Natalie Alheidt kept the Highlanders off-balance for the first five innings of the contest. Despite not striking out a single batter, Alheidt had allowed just one hit and one walk.
But in the sixth, Northern Highlands converted two hits and three walks into the decisive runs. After Gunderson's RBI single, she eventually scored on a wild pitch. Then Annie Holden brought in the third run with a single.
Vernon's biggest threat came in the fifth. Nicole Struble led off with a single and eventually moved to third, and the Vikings got another runner aboard on a walk. But Gunderson got a key strikeout to end the inning, and went on to retire the last seven batters she faced.
Alheidt finished with a three-hitter for 12th-seeded Vernon. The Vikings end the season at 9-18.
Northern Highlands is now 16-8. The Highlanders recently handed Ridgewood its first defeat of the season when the Maroons were ranked #1 in the state. Their next state tournament game comes against Indian Hills, the same team that knocked the Highlanders out of the Bergen County tournament this past weekend.
For sports video highlights of this New Jersey high school state tournament girls' softball game, click play in the box at left.