By Rich Fisher|Correspondent
Amanda Durham experienced something she had never felt before.
And she knew darn well she never wanted to feel it again.
Last year, St. John Vianney’s softball team lost to Immaculate Heart Academy in the NJSIAA Non Public A championship game. Durham was a junior in the Holmdel school experiencing her first title game loss after the Lancers had won state crowns in her freshman and sophomore seasons.
So on June 10, with IHA once again the finals opponent at Toms River North High School, Durham wanted to get that championship feeling back.
It came to pass, as SJV took a 4-2 victory to win its third state crown in four years and sixth overall.
“Absolutely,” said Durham, when asked if last year’s loss was motivation. “I came into high school and won, so I definitely wasn’t used to that. It’s a feeling I never wanted to feel again. Winning it this year was fabulous. Just a great feeling all the way around.
“That loss last year was so hard, because it was a championship game. It was tough, especially when you don’t score any runs. You take a loss and you remember that feeling and don’t ever want to feel it again. That’s exactly what I did. We brought it for this year,” she said.
They brought it all right. The Lancers finished 29-2 and were named the No. 1 team in the state by the Newark Star-Ledger. They also won the Monmouth County Tournament and Shore Conference Class A Central titles.
In the finals, junior left-hander Katie Beriont pitched a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts while Katie Baron provided the only run Beriont needed with a solo home run in the fourth inning. But SJV tacked on runs for good measure, as Marlena Bevilacqua’s misplayed bunt scored Erica Krumbine, Claire Stefanelli added an RBI single and Durham scored on Helena Coppola’s sacrifice fly.
It was only fitting Durham scored the final run as she is the team’s only senior starter, having started in centerfield and batted leadoff since her freshman season. Chelsea Vena is the team’s other senior. And while she was the accepted team leader as captain, the Sayreville resident also gave credit to Beriont and Jackie Gallagher for helping that department.
Durham also praised head coach Kim Lombardi “for being an amazing coach who pushed me to get better.”
“ We came together as a family, that was the biggest thing this year,” said Durham, who will play for Bowling Green University next year. “Any time you needed help someone was there to help you.
“Last year weren’t as close. We had some cliques. This year we put it aside, we were a unit, on and off the field. We knew that no matter what, we had each other’s backs. When we stepped on the field it showed. We had a presence.”
Gallagher was the team’s leading hitter (.510, 40 RBI), followed by Krumbine (.461) Beriont (.438), Durham (.422), Stefanelli (.413), Baron (.366, eight home runs, 36 RBI) and Coppola (.351). Beriont finished 26-2 and allowed just 15 earned runs (17 total) in 176 innings.
“It was just awesome,” Durham said. “One through nine we could all hit. It was fabulous because if I didn’t hit the girl behind me would hit. No one had any pressure. Any one in any situation could do it.
“And KB (Beriont) really stepped up her game. She just evolved so much as a pitcher. Especially being in center field, I could see how her pitches break. In my opinion she was the best pitcher out there.”
Beriont will be back with nearly the entire team, ready for another run.
“They’ll be awesome,” Durham said. “I can’t wait to come back and see it.”