Underdogs are always a force to be reckoned with in postseason competition, and today’s Tournament of Champions softball semifinal was a perfect example of that. St. John Vianney High School came in as the favorites as the tournament’s top-seed and No. 2 ranked team in NJ.com’s rankings, but fourth-seeded Steniert didn’t show up to lay down when they were paired off with the Lancers in today’s semifinal at Mike Sheppard, Sr. Field in East Orange.
Infact, it only took the first half of the first inning to see that the Spartans, the No. 13 team in NJ.com’s Top 20, came prepared to battle. A three-run rally in the first inning ended up being the only offense Steinert needed to pull off a 3-2 upset that ended an otherwise stellar Lancer season.
It only took three at-bats for the Spartans to get on the board. A walk on Dara Kelly and a single by Carli Backlund put Bella Truelove up the plate, and the Steinert freshman took full advantage of the situation by blasting a home run over left field to give her team an early 3-0 lead.
St. John Vianney pitcher Julia Parker conceded three hits before the first inning ended. The sophomore South Plainfield native showed poise in recovering from the early setback though, and retired 20 of the next 21 batters she saw, with one batter getting on base off an error. Parker finished the game with eight strikeouts, with three conceded hits and one walk.
Getting offense was a struggle for the Lancers though. Haley Ahr drove in Lindsey Baron for a run in the bottom of the first inning and later scored a run, but the hitting was few and far between for SJV in the rest of the game. The Lancers finished the game with four hits in all, with two of them coming from Alexis Agrapides.
Kaylee Whittaker certainly didn’t make things easy for SJV’s’ hitters though. The Steinert pitcher entered the game with 220 strikeouts to her name and racked up seven more before the game concluded. Whittaker only conceded one hit after the first inning, and four hits in all.
The loss marks the end of an impressive 2018 run by the Lancers. Led by Parker, the team outscored their opponents 20-3 enroute to a South Non-Public A sectional title, and then recorded a 2-1 win over Mount St. Dominic to earn their first Non-Public A state championship since 2013. The team also won their ninth consecutive Monmouth County title.
The Lancers end their season with a 27-2 record. Their only other loss of the season came at the hands of Mount St. Dominic in the finals of the Shore Conference tournament. The Lancers previously defeated Donovan Catholic in the finals of the South Non-Public A tournament.