Sturdy seniors spark young Donovan Catholic softball team to third straight SCT title
The latest Donovan Catholic softball powerhouse runs on a mechanism of talented underclassmen. But the proverbial motor oil – the lifeline of any engine – consists of two savvy seniors.
After losing their freshman season to Covid shutdowns, Julia Apostolakos and Jenna Giattino have gradually emerged as the team leaders and made their presence felt in the Toms River school’s latest success.
Apostolakos pitched a gutsy, 10-inning complete game and Giattino provided clutch offense and defense in Donovan’s 4-3 victory over St. John Vianney, Holmdel, in the Shore Conference Tournament title game.
PHOTO GALLERY: Donovan Catholic vs. St. John Vianney SCT Championship
“They’ve had a tremendous amount of experience,” coach Debbie Schwartz said. “They’ve won Non-Public A (state titles) and the Shore Conference every year of their careers; the Tournament of Champions their sophomore years. That experience and torch they carry and their calm in the storm really showed up in the final. They both came through in big ways.”
The May 19 final at Red Bank’s Count Basie Park was another classic between traditional rivals that are also two of New Jersey’s top teams.
Apostolakos singled home Giattino in the first inning and scored her on a ground out in the third. SJV freshman Madison McDougall spoiled Apostolakos’ no-hitter with a two-run double in the sixth to tie it.
The battle raged on as Griffins’ sophomore Gia Gordon supplied an RBI single in the top of the ninth before the Lancers’ Elisabeth Figliolino singled and scored on an error to tie it. Giattino ended the ninth by making an outstanding catch in right and throwing to second to double off the runner.
“That was an awesome play followed by an awesome play,” Schwartz said. “She makes those kinds of plays, and that one was huge.”
After going hitless her first four at-bats, Bella Maria’s RBI single in the 10th provided what proved to be the winning run.
“That was awesome,” Schwartz said of the freshman, who’s batting a team-leading .565. “She was on it all day, she just popped up a little bit. I had absolutely no doubt that Bella Maria would deliver. That was a great experience to deliver the winning hit in a game like that.”
Apostolakos nailed it down in the 10th, finishing with a two-hitter and 16 strikeouts. More importantly, she didn’t wilt when SJV rallied twice to tie it.
“She was in control the whole time,” Schwartz said. “Maybe when she was younger, she might have gotten more nervous. She’s been in enough of these games to know a fight doesn’t end when the other team scores two runs. She also gave us some great offense. She’s delivering on all cylinders.”
The Griffins began their quest for a fourth straight state title May 25 against Our Lady of Mercy in the South Jersey Non-Public A tournament. Their young lineup includes junior Emily Kurth, sophomores Christina Ginex, Gia Gordon, Olivia Kurth, Megan Miller, Sophia Singer and Gianna Apostolakos; and freshmen Maria and Daniella Rodriguez.
Holding it all together are Giattino and Julia Apostolakos.
“I’m really proud of both my seniors for their leadership and poise and just keeping everybody invested and focused,” Schwartz said. “They’re reassuring, they’re calming, they’re passing the torch. These kids act and react in tough situations. They don’t fall apart.”