RED BANK, NJ - It certainly wasn’t a surprise that Monday’s Shore Conference Tournament final between St. John Vianney and Donovan Catholic came down to the final inning. Just three days prior, a bases loaded walk allowed the Griffins to hand St. John Vianney a heartbreaking 10-inning loss in the state sectional tournament final.
While Monday’s game was just as hard-fought as the previous contest, the clutch pitching of Julia Parker, and a pair of RBIs from senior Alexa Aprigades allowed the Lancers to close the show in seven innings and take a 4-3 win to end the 2019 campaign as Shore Conference champions.
The outcome marked the second time the two teams finished the year 1-1 against each other in postseason play, as the Lancers defeated Donovan Catholic (28-2) in 2018’s state sectional tournament, while Donovan Catholic came out in top in last year’s Shore Conference final.
For St. John Vianney coach Kim Lombardi, the difference between the Monday’s game and Friday’s game was that the Lancers (27-1) showed up to win this time rather than just compete. Parker, who finished the game with five strikeouts, one walk and two earned runs, characterized this in her approach against what many consider the best offense in the state. The South Plainfield native came out aggressive against Karina Gaskins, --who leads the state in home runs with 19 bombs – and Parker was able to hold the power hitter to two singles in four at-bats.
“Julia came out really confident, and wanted to go after people today,” Lombadi said. “We talked about possibly walking Gaskins, and you know what, we ended up saying we should go after her. (We said) lets play to win and see if she can take your best stuff. (Gaskins) got a couple base hits but, we kept the ball in the park, so we did our job.”
Parker was also tested in the top of the seventh inning, as she was given the task of protecting a one-run lead against Donovan Catholic’s ninth, first and second hitters, which included Kaylynn Gerrity, who hit a solo homer earlier in the game. After giving up a single in the second at-bat of the inning, the junior pitcher got a fielder’s choice out, and then drew a flyout from Gaskins to end the game.
“I knew as soon as I got out there it was going to be their nine one and two, so I was just telling myself to trust my defense and my pitches,” Parker said. “I knew we were going to make the outs.”
Aprigades led the Lancers on offense by hitting two game-tying RBI, first during a fourth inning rally and then in the sixth. Haley Ahr followed the sixth inning hit with a double, and Ally Jones took advantage of the situation by driving in a run that gave St. John Vianney a 4-3 lead, it’s first lead of the game.
“(Aprigades) really came in clutch today, and she’s been clutch for us all season,” said Parker. “It’s great that she ended on a high note, and I’m gonna miss these seniors.”
“It felt great to end the season with a win,” Parker added. “As underclassmen we really wanted to end it on a high note for our seniors.”