South Orange, N.J. - One at-bat led to the St. John Vianney softball team’s terrific 2018 season ending on Wednesday night. With the first two batters reaching base to start the top of the first inning, Steinert’s Bella Truelove drove a pitch from St. John Vianney starter Julia Parker over the centerfield wall for a three-run home run to give Steinert the early lead and ultimately led to the No. 4 seed Spartans upsetting the top-seeded Lancers 3-2 in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions.
“We came out flat to begin the game and couldn’t recover from it,” said St. John Vianney softball coach Kimberlee Lombardi.
Down three runs following Truelove’s home run, the Lancers responded in the bottom half of the inning. Lindsey Baron led-off the inning with a single and scored in the next at-bat on Haley Ahr’s RBI double into the gap in right center to put St. John Vianney on the board.
Ahr later scored on a throwing error to bring the Lancers within one down 3-2.
The game saw no runs scored after that with both pitchers settling in well in the circle.
After her rocky start in the first inning, Parker got herself back on track and was unhittable the rest of the way for St. John Vianney.
The sophomore retired 12 batters in a row following a first inning single by Kaylee Whittaker. Parker overall retired 20 of the last 21 batters she faced and didn’t give up a hit after the first inning. She finished with a game-high eight strikeouts in her complete-game performance on the hill to keep St. John Vianney in the game.
Just like Parker though, Whittaker was equally as good in the circle for Steinert. Whittaker held St. John Vianney in check, allowing only only one Lancer to reach base through the second and third innings.
St. John Vianney had a golden opportunity to at least tie things up with runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth inning, but Whittaker struckout Shelli Rivard to end the frame to keep Steinert in the lead.
“I kept pounding the strike zone and mixed up the speeds of my pitches to try keep their hitters off-balance at the plate,” Whittaker said. “I knew I had to dig deep and find a way to finish it to help my team win.”
Whittaker shutdown the Lancers in order in the fifth. St. John Vianney had another chance to tie it in the sixth inning with a runner on second with two outs, just to see Whittaker get out of that jam by getting Ally Jones to pop out to second base.
With one last chance in the bottom of the seventh to tie it and keep their season alive, the Lancers were shutdown in order by Whittaker, who finished with seven strikeouts in her complete-game victory for Steinert.
St. John Vianney finishes the season with two straight losses after playing to a perfect mark of 27-0. The Lancers lost to Donovan Catholic 13-4 in the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Monday.
“It was a great season, but you never want to lose your last two games of the season,” Lombardi said.
The season might not have ended the way St. John Vianney would have wanted, but the Lancers can take a lot of enjoy from what they accomplished this season. The team won both the program’s first Non-Public South A sectional championship and first Non-Public A state title in five years, while finishing with an impressive 27-2 record on the season.
“Our team did a really good job this year,” Lombardi said. “My seniors Lindsey Baron and Shelli Rivard were both four year starters and both had great careers. Lindsey really sured up our infield at the shortstop position this season. It was a great season. We just fell short in the last two games.”
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