By Brian Deakyne
TOMS RIVER – Regardless of what happened Saturday, the Mater Dei Prep softball team was going into the game as winners.
That was the mindset the 15-seeded Seraphs took into the game as they faced the third-seeded and perennial conference power, Toms River East, in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal.
Mater Dei fell to Toms River East, 6-0, ending its miraculous season at 24-4. Toms River East senior pitcher Jordan Weed, who is committed to pitch for Boston College next spring, fanned 11 batters en route to the shutout win for the Lady Raiders.
The Seraphs defeated Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the tournament before upsetting second-seeded Wall in the round of 16 and seventh-seeded Howell in the quarterfinals.
“We were playing with house money,” Mater Dei Prep coach Jeanne Dickinson said. “We never thought we’d be playing here on June 1. We never thought we’d be playing against the better teams in the [conference]. I couldn’t be any prouder of the girls. As good as Toms River East is, I think we came in a little scared and that’s OK. We had a great season and we’re very proud of what we did.”
Mater Dei struggled to settle in, offensively and defensively, over the first few innings as the Raiders took a 4-0 lead after two frames.
With a deficit like that against one of the best pitchers in the state, a comeback is nearly impossible.
“You can’t get down against someone like [Jordan] Weed, because you’re not going to scratch your way back into it and get that many runs,” Dickinson said.
But, did the Seraphs have any specific approach against Weed?
“Absolutely not,” Dickinson said. “We were going with the fact that today was just a fun day. What happened happened and we’re going with it from there. Seeded 15, going against the number three [seed], they’re supposed to be here and we’re not. We didn’t take any approach other than what we’ve been doing the last 28 games.”
Weed smacked a two-run home run over the left field wall in the bottom of the fifth inning to extend Toms River East’s lead to 6-0.
Mater Dei senior pitcher Jackie Nash allowed six runs on seven hits over seven innings with two strikeouts. After settling down in the third inning, though, the only further blemish to her day was Weed’s home run.
Even with the loss, the 2013 Seraphs reached milestones and accomplishments that no one would have predicted – not even their coach.
“Never in a million years would someone have told me that we were going to be 24-4,” Dickinson said. “If anybody would have told me we’d be playing on June 1, I would have said you’re lying. We came into this season with nowhere near the expectations that we have accomplished. There’s nothing I can say; they made coaching fun this year. It was good and a fun, fun year.”
And, even trailing by six runs wasn’t going to stop the Seraphs from battling back to the end on Saturday, just as they have done all season.
“They’ve never given up,” Dickinson said. “We’ve been down in games before. They play very loose. People tend to think that they don’t care, but that’s just their nature. They’re not intimidated by anybody, but when somebody puts a new game plan in against them, it just takes them a little while to get passed it.”