Saint John Vianney High School was faced with ending its softball season with a rare defeat.
Saint John Vianney, which had suffered just one loss in its first 28 games of the spring, was down by five runs after five innings to Ocean Township High School in the championship game of the Shore Conference Tournament June 8 at Wall High School.
Saint John Vianney’s head coach, Kim Lombardi, was confident in her team’s ability to rebound.
“This is a team of competitors who all hate to lose,” Lombardi said. “I was just waiting for someone to be the spark plug that gets us going.”
The second-seeded Lancers pulled off the rally and secured the championship when they scored a 10-6 victory over 12th-seeded Ocean Township in a game that lasted nine innings.
Saint John Vianney struck for five runs in the sixth inning to produce a 6-6 tie and force extra innings. The Lancers then erupted to score four runs in the top of the ninth inning to pull ahead, 10-6. Slugging catcher Ally Jones delivered the crucial hit when she hit a three-run double.
Pitcher Demi Rivera closed the last of the ninth to ice the championship and gain the victory in a game that she actually started and then later came in from the bullpen. Rivera pitched a total of 6.2 innings, striking out six in her final game as a Lancer.
She was pulled in the third inning after she allowed three runs in the second and had allowed two Ocean Township hitters to reach base in the third. Rivera was later summoned back to the mound in the sixth inning. She finished with just one hit allowed for the remainder of the game.
“She’s a senior who’s going to lead us no matter what,” Lombardi said. “Why not go with the senior in this situation? She came through like she always does.”
Lombardi thought that her team had the edge in extra innings.
“Ocean is a good team,” Lombardi said “We knew we needed more than one run to get it done, but I knew once it went into extras, that we had what it took.”
An emotional Rivera reflected on her final season.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished this year,” Rivera said. “This is the best team I’ve ever been on. I’m just proud to be on this team.”
For the season, Saint John Vianney won both the Shore Conference Tournament and the Monmouth County Tournament championships and ended 28-1.
Saint John Vianney’s only loss was a 6-5 setback to Donovan Catholic High School in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Jersey, Non-Public A finals June 1.
Two days after it was eliminated from the state playoffs, Saint John Vianney knocked out the defending Shore Conference Tournament champion, Middletown High School North, 3-2, in the Shore Conference Tournament’s semifinals round.