By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
For a half inning, it looked like the smoke would keep swirling and the mirror would keep reflecting positive results.
But after scoring two runs in the top of the first, the fourth-seeded Mater Dei softball team dropped a 12-2, six-inning decision to second-seeded Wildwood Catholic in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B championship game June 1 at Stockton University.
Despite the loss and despite losing the early lead, Coach Jeanne Dickinson was hardly disappointed.
“We got here on smoke and mirrors,” the coach said. “If somebody told me in March that we would be playing for the championship I would have told them ‘Could we have whatever you’re on?’
“That’s an outstanding team, well put together. We’ve got a lot of players still learning the game. I’m very happy with the season. It’s a shame the five seniors are leaving with nothing, but they had four good years.”
Indeed they did. Pitcher Paige Fernandez, catcher Sam Napoli, first baseman Tyrah Graves, shortstop Kayley Anthony and leftfielder Jayme Lewandowski made three trips to the sectional final and four to the semifinals, compiling a four-year mark of 60-28.
The Seraphs finished 16-9 this season and Fernandez agreed with her coach that it was a nice year.
“We definitely didn’t think we were going to make it this far,” said Fernandez, a parishioner of St. Mary, Middletown. “We didn’t think we were going to make it past the first round so to make it here is definitely an honor. It’s great, it’s my senior year so it was one last ride.”
Mater Dei struck early when Napoli singled and scored on a single by Graves and an outfield error. Fernandez walked and Morgan Hurst hit an RBI single to make it 2-0. Valerie Zoda walked to load the bases, but a 1-2-3 double play ended the rally and the Mater Dei scoring for the day.
“Story of our life here,” Dickinson said. “Bases loaded, one out, no outs, we don’t get any runs in. We come out like gang busters and we kind of sit back.”
Wildwood Catholic came back with three in the first and two in the second, and tallied seven runs over the fifth and sixth to end it on the mercy rule.
Asked if a few more runs in the first would have changed the game’s complexion, Dickinson said simply “No.”
Part of the problem is that the Seraphs also killed themselves with four errors.
“You can’t give a team like this four or five outs an inning,” Dickinson said. “But we played with house money, we got here. That wasn’t expected.”
The coach said she couldn’t quite put her finger on what triggered the state run, but did feel that Fernandez’s toughness was a big key.
“She’s been with me for four years,” Dickinson said. “She had a tough year this year playing through tendonitis in her pitching elbow but she has gutted through the whole season and kept us alive.”
Fernandez, who is headed for King’s College next year but will not play softball, felt it was a case of chemistry forming over the season.
“The team as a whole got a lot closer toward the end of the year,” she said. “We worked better together, we were more comfortable with each other. We knew where to go, what to do. We got used to each other’s quirks and stuff.”[[In-content Ad]]