St. John Vianney softball rallies to win SCT title game

May 24, 2024 at 1:38 p.m.

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

The process has been completed.

“It’s been five years in the making, and it was a much-needed win,” Kim Lombardi-McDougall said.

The St. John Vianney, Holmdel, softball coach was referring to her team’s 10-9, nine-inning victory over Donovan Catholic, Toms River, in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game May 22.

It was the first SCT title for the Lancers (21-1) since 2019, which was also the last time they defeated the Griffins. In that year, Donovan Catholic won the South Jersey Non-Public A sectional final played between the two teams, before SJV won the SCT final to end the season. The Griffins beat St. John Vianney in the sectional semifinal in 2021 and the SCT final last season.

Lombardi-McDougall admitted that beating Donovan Catholic for the championship is a little extra special.

“The Donovan games have a little more emotion behind them,” the coach said. “The other teams we play are very solid and very good, but I’m not sure there’s as much emotion behind it. It’s not like you don’t care who you’re playing but usually we go out there and handle business.

“But because there was some history with this team, I feel my girls, instead of at first playing to win, they were playing not to lose. Now they won and can compete and beat such a good team like Donovan, maybe this is a game that sparks us to continue going pretty strong in the states.”

It was a good way for both teams to enter the states, as they prepare for their opening games on May 29.

The rollercoaster SCT final saw Donovan Catholic rally from a 5-0 deficit for a 6-5 lead on Olivia Kurth’s three-run home run. Madison McDougall tied it with a solo homer in the fifth.

The Griffins appeared to deliver the knockout blow when Christina Ginex delivered a three-run double for a 9-6 lead in the top of the eighth. But in the bottom of the inning, freshman Brynn Utter got a two-strike single for her second hit of the game to put two runners on. Sophomore Gabby Gonzalez then drove one over the wall for a game-tying home run, her eighth dinger of the season. 

And Lombardi-McDougall’s cheers were answered.

“I’m rattling on the (dugout) fence telling them to stay in this, we can win this,” she said. “I told them we’re good enough to win, you girls work so hard. We gotta believe, we gotta pick each other up. We know how to score a lot of runs in one inning. So don’t count yourselves out.”

The fact it was a young sophomore handling the pressure did not surprise the coach, even though she was 0-for-4 prior to her HR.  

“Gabby’s been a dominant force since her freshman year,” Lombardi-McDougall said. “I felt like she was due. I knew that this was her time and this was when she was gonna get the hit. I didn’t know it was gonna be a home run but sure as heck loved that it was a home run.”

After McDougall pitched a scoreless ninth, Giuliana Cardin singled, Jordyn Gautier was hit by a pitch on what would have been ball four, and Isabelle Cattelona singled off the second baseman’s glove to drive in the winning run. Cattelona also had an RBI single to score SJV’s first run.

And so ended another classic between the two teams.

“It’s kind of the way we always seem to play our games,” said Lombardi-McDougall, whose team plays Marlboro in the May 24 Monmouth County Tournament final.  “It’s good for the softball community that comes out to watch. It doesn’t disappoint anyone.”

The two could meet again in the SJ Non-Public A semifinals, as they compete in the state’s toughest bracket. It includes SJV (21-1 record), ranked No. 2 in the state, No. 3 Notre Dame (23-1), No. 5 Donovan Catholic (22-4)  and No. 8  Red Bank Catholic (21-3).

St. John Vianney enters play as the defending Non-Public A state champ.

“We’re not ranked number one in New Jersey so the bullseye is not on our back right now,” Lombardi-McDougall said. “We’re in a good place not to have the bullseye completely on our back. But, but by the same token we are the defending champs so there’s always a bullseye.”

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The process has been completed.

“It’s been five years in the making, and it was a much-needed win,” Kim Lombardi-McDougall said.

The St. John Vianney, Holmdel, softball coach was referring to her team’s 10-9, nine-inning victory over Donovan Catholic, Toms River, in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game May 22.

It was the first SCT title for the Lancers (21-1) since 2019, which was also the last time they defeated the Griffins. In that year, Donovan Catholic won the South Jersey Non-Public A sectional final played between the two teams, before SJV won the SCT final to end the season. The Griffins beat St. John Vianney in the sectional semifinal in 2021 and the SCT final last season.

Lombardi-McDougall admitted that beating Donovan Catholic for the championship is a little extra special.

“The Donovan games have a little more emotion behind them,” the coach said. “The other teams we play are very solid and very good, but I’m not sure there’s as much emotion behind it. It’s not like you don’t care who you’re playing but usually we go out there and handle business.

“But because there was some history with this team, I feel my girls, instead of at first playing to win, they were playing not to lose. Now they won and can compete and beat such a good team like Donovan, maybe this is a game that sparks us to continue going pretty strong in the states.”

It was a good way for both teams to enter the states, as they prepare for their opening games on May 29.

The rollercoaster SCT final saw Donovan Catholic rally from a 5-0 deficit for a 6-5 lead on Olivia Kurth’s three-run home run. Madison McDougall tied it with a solo homer in the fifth.

The Griffins appeared to deliver the knockout blow when Christina Ginex delivered a three-run double for a 9-6 lead in the top of the eighth. But in the bottom of the inning, freshman Brynn Utter got a two-strike single for her second hit of the game to put two runners on. Sophomore Gabby Gonzalez then drove one over the wall for a game-tying home run, her eighth dinger of the season. 

And Lombardi-McDougall’s cheers were answered.

“I’m rattling on the (dugout) fence telling them to stay in this, we can win this,” she said. “I told them we’re good enough to win, you girls work so hard. We gotta believe, we gotta pick each other up. We know how to score a lot of runs in one inning. So don’t count yourselves out.”

The fact it was a young sophomore handling the pressure did not surprise the coach, even though she was 0-for-4 prior to her HR.  

“Gabby’s been a dominant force since her freshman year,” Lombardi-McDougall said. “I felt like she was due. I knew that this was her time and this was when she was gonna get the hit. I didn’t know it was gonna be a home run but sure as heck loved that it was a home run.”

After McDougall pitched a scoreless ninth, Giuliana Cardin singled, Jordyn Gautier was hit by a pitch on what would have been ball four, and Isabelle Cattelona singled off the second baseman’s glove to drive in the winning run. Cattelona also had an RBI single to score SJV’s first run.

And so ended another classic between the two teams.

“It’s kind of the way we always seem to play our games,” said Lombardi-McDougall, whose team plays Marlboro in the May 24 Monmouth County Tournament final.  “It’s good for the softball community that comes out to watch. It doesn’t disappoint anyone.”

The two could meet again in the SJ Non-Public A semifinals, as they compete in the state’s toughest bracket. It includes SJV (21-1 record), ranked No. 2 in the state, No. 3 Notre Dame (23-1), No. 5 Donovan Catholic (22-4)  and No. 8  Red Bank Catholic (21-3).

St. John Vianney enters play as the defending Non-Public A state champ.

“We’re not ranked number one in New Jersey so the bullseye is not on our back right now,” Lombardi-McDougall said. “We’re in a good place not to have the bullseye completely on our back. But, but by the same token we are the defending champs so there’s always a bullseye.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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