St. John Vianney girls softball teammates celebrate after their May 23 win against Red Bank Catholic. Joe Moore photo
St. John Vianney girls softball teammates celebrate after their May 23 win against Red Bank Catholic. Joe Moore photo

As the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A Softball Tournament heads toward its championship game on May 31, the SJ Non-Public A Baseball Tournament will only be just beginning.

Either way, there are Diocese of Trenton teams wherever you look.

In the softball sectional title game, defending champion Donovan Catholic of Toms River will host top-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas of Edison as the Griffins go for their third straight South Jersey title and fifth in six years.

That same day, two Diocese baseball teams along with Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft will play first-round tournament games while third-seeded Red Bank Catholic and fourth-seeded St. John Vianney, Holmdel, enjoy byes and begin play on June 3.  

In softball, the second-seeded Griffins (26-0 record) – ranked No. 1 in the state by NJ.com, No. 8 in the nation by MaxPreps and No. 9 nationally in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 – took a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Notre Dame of Lawrenceville as they continue their quest for a third straight Tournament of Champions title.  

Julie Apostolakos tossed a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts for the Griffins, whose powerful offense was slowed down by ND’s Rylee Michalak. The sophomore fired a five-hitter for Notre Dame (19-5), while Christa Andrusiewicz had an RBI single to pull ND within 2-1 in the top of the fourth. Emma Marchese added a double for the Irish.

Donovan Catholic got two hits, including a double, RBI and run scored from Alyssa Apruzzi while Christina Ginex had a hit and RBI. Jenna Giattino had two hits and a run scored.

It seemed like Donovan Catholic and St. John Vianney were on a collision course for their sixth straight meeting in the sectionals before St. Thomas Aquinas (21-6) scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a walk-off, 7-6 victory over the fourth-seeded Lancers (18-4).

SJV got off to a strong start with two runs in the first inning and three more in the second. The Trojans got a run back in the fourth and pulled within 5-4 in the fifth. Each team scored once in the sixth before St. Thomas Aquinas broke the Lancers heart in the bottom of the seventh.

Holly Lovett had a home run, three RBI and two runs scored for SJV, while Nicole Giglio and Elisabeth Figliolino each had two hits.

The Lancers and Griffins both had first-round byes, then experienced very different games in the second round. Donovan Catholic cruised to a 10-0 win over seventh-seeded Immaculata while the Lancers won a wild, 10-9 decision over fifth-seeded Red Bank Catholic.

The Griffins got two home runs and five RBI from winning pitcher Apostolakos, who fired a six-inning four-hitter with 11 strikeouts. Christina Ginex had a single, homer and three RBI and Ashley Federico hit a solo HR.

The Lancers thought they were cruising to an equally easy win over RBC, as they carried a 9-1 lead into the top of the sixth. But, incredibly, the Caseys scored eight runs that inning to tie it before SJV pushed a run across in the bottom of the sixth to win it.

Lily Hagan had a hit and two RBI for RBC (17-7), while Nicole Knox had three hits and an RBI. Lauren Gabriel, Morgan O’Sullivan, Bella Hurta, Hannah Rickert, Corina Wilton and Amelia Santos all drove in runs.

The Lancers got two hits and three RBI from Figliolino, a hit and two RBI each from Isabelle Cattelona and Mackenzie Bloss, and two hits apiece from Giglio, Giuliana Cardin and Holly Lovett.

Notre Dame reached the semifinals with an 8-1 win over sixth-seeded Paul VI of Haddonfield. Andrusiewicz had a hit and two RBI, Marchese had three hits and an RBI and Alyana Giampolo collected two hits and three runs scored. Michalak threw a four-hitter with nine strikeouts for the Irish.

While the girls are headed for a culmination – with the state championship game being played June 3 and the Tournament of Champions starting June 7 – the hardballers are just ramping up.

In order to win SJ Non-Public A, teams will have to run a dangerous gauntlet as the top two seeds – St. Augustine of Richland and St. Joe’s of Metuchen – are two of the top four ranked teams in the state by NJ.com.  

When first-round play begins May 31, 8th-seeded Notre Dame hosts 9th-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas, sixth-seeded CBA hosts 11th-seeded Paul VI, and seventh-seeded Donovan Catholic hosts 10th-seeded Union Catholic.

The Irish, who are fired up after being upset in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, are looking to regain some momentum. After starting 14-0, Notre Dame had lost four of six entering its May 26 game with Cranford.

ND has been led by a ferocious lineup. Leadoff batter Dylan Palmer is hitting .569 with 24 stolen bases and 37 runs scored and right behind him in the batting order is Jackson Wargo, who’s hitting .410 with 23 RBI. Jack Hughes is also over .500 at .543 with 24 RBI. Brendan Buecker is hitting .475 and leads the team with 26 RBI, while Lance Eilbacher (.481) and twin brother Logan Eilbacher (.463) give Notre Dame six starters batting over .400.

Ryan Mignogna (1.50 ERA) and Luke Foley (1.85) are the Irish’s top starting pitchers, while Caleb Kemper and closer Palmer have also been key to the staff.  

A victory would give Notre Dame a challenging second-round game at top-seeded St. Augustine, which is ranked No. 1 in the state by NJ.com with a 22-1 record.  

Donovan Catholic has picked up momentum late in the season, having won six straight before losing to Jackson Memorial in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals.

The Griffins have a dangerous slugger in Gavin Degan, who is hitting .403 with six home runs and 20 RBI. They have two solid hurlers on the mound as Shaun O’Keefe has a 1.70 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 32 innings; and Jake Marciano has a 2.77 ERA in 30? innings.

Should the Griffins win, they will have a challenge playing at second-seeded St. Joe’s Metuchen, which is ranked No. 4 in the state.

CBA will rely on the bats of Harrison Campi, Hunter DelGuercio, Joe Figliolino, Jack Frankovic, Alexey Stout and Zaine Toneski. Colin Reilly and Frankovic are the top hurlers.

If the Colts win, they meet No. 3 seed Red Bank Catholic, which reached the sectional finals last year before falling in extra innings to St. Augustine.

“We’ve been there, we’ve been in that game so the kids know what it feels like to have to lose,” said coach Buddy Hausmann, who’s team has won six of its last eight. “So, if they don’t want it to happen again they have to play a little bit better this year.”

The Caseys are led by senior shortstop Matt Scrivanik and junior catcher Shane  Andrus.

“Matt hits in the middle of the lineup, he’s been good leading us on and off the field,” Hausmann said. “Shane did a great job for us last year and is doing another great job this year.

“Alex Stanyek has pitched very well. He’s our leadoff hitter and rightfielder; and he really gets us going. Frank Scrivanik (Matt’s brother) has been playing very well playing first base and hitting in the middle of the order.”

Fourth-seeded St. John Vianney (17-5-1) will meet the winner of the game between fifth-seeded Pingry, which recently won the NJISAA Prep A title, and 12th-seeded Camden Catholic.

The Lancers have won eight of their last nine, with the lone loss being a one-run decision to Rumson-Fairhaven in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

Junior Aiden Cody and senior Nick Ferraioli have provided the kind of one-two pitching punch that can help a team make a run in the tournament. Cody is 7-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 42 innings, while Ferraioli is 4-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 36? innings.

The offense has been fueled by senior Barry Oswick, who’s batting .575 with nine doubles, four home runs, 18 RBI, 19 stolen bases and 36 runs scored. Matteo Pasculli is SJV’s big run producer as he is hitting .441 with three homers, 37 RBI and 20 runs scored.

Kyle Pollack is at .422 with three homers and 18 RBI, while Antonio Kurtz is batting .406 with three homers and 15 RBI. Although batting just .236, Dan Flynn is second on the team with 19 RBI.

Should any Diocese team advance from the second round, the sectional semifinals must be played by June 7, the finals are June 10 at the higher seed, and the state championship will be June 15 at Veterans Park in Hamilton, Mercer County.