Sewell, N.J. - After two years straight of coming up empty in the NJSIAA South Non-Public A Championship game against Donovan Catholic, the St. John Vianney softball team finally fulfilled their goal of hoisting the championship trophy on Thursday. In a scoreless game going into the sixth inning, the Lancers broke through for two runs and behind the brilliance of Julia Parker on the mound, were able to shutdown the Donovan Catholic offense and roll to a 2-0 victory for their first sectional championship in five years.
“I’m very proud of all my kids and the contributions we got all-around to get the win,” said St. John Vianney softball coach Kimberlee Lombardi. “We haven’t won this in a while, so it’s awesome to be able to get it done this year.”
The sectional title game was a straight up pitchers duel between Parker and Donovan Catholic starter Lindsay Nelson through the first five innings.
St. John Vianney got a runner on base each time during the first two innings, but Nelson kept the Lancers bats at bay. With runners on second and third with no one out in the third inning, the Lancers had a golden chance to take an early lead. Yet again though, Nelson kept St. John Vianney off the board by retiring the next three batters in order, two via the strikeout.
As St. John Vianney missed out on opportunities to grab control of the game, its starter Julia Parker kept them even with Donovan Catholic with her great performance in the circle.
Parker was dominant in her first three scoreless innings on the mound. The sophomore didn’t give up her first hit till the third inning when Alexa Pagano wrapped a double into the gap in right center, but Pagano got greedy trying to make it into a triple and the Lancers were able to throw her out at third base to end the inning.
Parker didn’t give up a hit through her next two scoreless innings to keep it 0-0 going into the fifth inning.
“I just keep trusting my pitches and trusting my defense behind me,” Parker said.
Parker’s leadoff single helped set-up the Lancers in the sixth inning. After Jessica Campana drew her second walk of the game to give St. John Vianney runners on first and second with two outs, the Lancers had a runner in scoring position with Ally Jones coming up to bat.
Jumping on the first pitch she saw, Jones ripped a single into right field that allowed Charly Baker who was pitch running for Parker to score all the way from second to give St. John Vianney a 1-0 lead.
“There was a big task in front of me and I needed to do my job for my team,” Jones said. “I was confident in myself that I could. Once I saw a pitch I could drive, I just went with it to right field.”
The Lancers added to its lead two batters later as Shelli Rivard drew a bases loaded walk to score Campana to make it a 2-0 game.
Rivard reached base in all three of her at-bats for St. John Vianney in the contest.
With a two-run lead in hand, Parker continued to coast in the circle, throwing a perfect sixth inning to keep St. John Vianney up 2-0.
Coming back to close it out in the seventh, Parker got the leadoff batter out, but Karina Gaskins ripped a single up the middle to get a runner on for Donovan Catholic. Parker retired the next batter, only to give up a single to Nelson to put the tying run on base for the Griffins.
With the tying run on base and needing just one out to end the game, Parker was able to get the job done, getting Mikayla LaPlaca to fly out to center to end the game and give the Lancers their ninth sectional championship.
“I knew I needed my pitches and trust my defense behind me,” Parker said on getting the final out. “It’s an incredible feeling to be called a sectional champion. We were so close last year and to comeback and win it this year, feels great.”
Parker now has thrown seven complete-game shutouts this season and has given up only one run in her last five games pitched. She’s also now 21-0 as starter this season.
St. John Vianney remains undefeated on this season, standing now at 26-0.
Brought to tears seeing her team finally get passed Donovan Catholic and now sectional champions, Lombardi couldn’t be prouder of what her team has accomplished this season.
“Our team plays as one and trusts, no matter what grade, that the girl next to her can contribute to help us win,” Lombardi said. “We have a great group of hard working girls. I’m very proud of all my players and how they all played to get the win.”
As Lombardi said, the journey doesn’t stop here for St. John Vianney as the Lancers will now look to defeat Mount St. Dominic in the Non-Public state final on Saturday.
This is also not the last time St. John Vianney will play Donovan Catholic this season as the two teams will meet in the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Monday.
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