Duo adds punch for Washington Twp.

Washington Twp. seniors Alyssa Cudeyro, left and Jenna Mills, right, have led ytheir team to SJ 4 finals in a "rebuilding" season. 05/28/2014 ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )

By her own admission, Alyssa Cudeyro tends to get a little "crazy" during Washington Township softball games.

Teammate, classmate, and close friend Jenna Mills has the bruise to prove it.

Mills thinks it's a great thing that her fellow senior captain gets emotional at big moments in big games. She also thinks a black-and-blue patch on her pitching arm is a small price to pay for the emotional lift.

Besides, Mills figures she has more than a mark on her right biceps to show for Cudeyro's excitement. She also has her first home run of the season - the game-winning hit in the top of the eighth inning of a 4-1 victory Tuesday over Millville in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals.

"It was a lucky punch," Mills said of the shot she took from Cudeyro in the dugout as the game rumbled into extra innings.

Moments earlier, Cudeyro had ended Millville's threat in the bottom of the seventh with a catch in deep center field and a peg to second base for a double play.

Cudeyro raced off the field and went to work on firing up her teammates. She didn't mean to bruise Mills' pitching arm.

But she wanted to send her friend up to the plate to lead off the eighth inning with a boost.

"I want to be energetic and emotional for my team," Cudeyro said. "I want them to feed off that."

While juniors Jessica Hughes (.614 average, 54 hits, 15 doubles) and Lauren Sandelier (.368 average, 30 RBIs) have been Washington Township's top hitters, coach Tracy Burkhart points to the leadership of Mills and Cudeyro as keys to the Minutemaids' ability to continue to build on last season's success.

Washington Township won the Group 4 state title in 2013, thanks in large part to then-seniors Kylie Mulholland, Taylor Coroneos, and Kristen Turner, all of whom signed with Division I college programs.

But this year's team has kept up the pace, with a 22-4 record and a berth in the sectional final Friday against 16th-seeded Atlantic City.

"It has kind of been a continuation of last year," Mills said. "We have a lot of talent and we won a lot last year, and we love the sport and we've just kept it going. We all have a lot of heart."

Mills, who plans to play next year at Misericordia, saw limited action in the pitching circle as a junior but has blossomed into an ace as a senior. She is 21-2 with a 0.99 ERA, 105 strikeouts, and just nine walks.

"My defense has been great behind me," Mills said, noting the double plays the Minutemaids turned in the sixth and seventh innings against Millville.

Cudeyro, a Holy Family recruit, is batting .337 with 10 extra-base hits. She is a top defensive centerfielder, with just one error in 173 innings.

She also leads the cheers and chatter in the dugout. And sometimes, she even takes that a step further.

"I'm crazy," Cudeyro said. "But I get so excited, and I want to get my teammates excited, too."

Her old friend and fellow captain has the sore arm to verify it. But all the Minutemaids have a date in another South Jersey Group 4 championship game, so nobody is complaining.