By Ryan Fennell
Wall – Saint John Vianney was playing its third game in twenty-four hours and Middletown South for the second time in that span entering play in the Monmouth County Tournament Softball Final at Wall High School on Saturday.
On Friday afternoon, SJV defeated Allentown, 5-0, in the MCT semifinal before facing off against the Middletown South Eagles later that night in a regular season matchup, winning that game, 6-0.
Facing a 3-0 deficit in the third inning against the Eagles in the MCT Final, senior Kristen Solari belted a single to left to drive in two runs and cut South’s lead to 1 at 3-2.
Two innings later senior Taylor August came through with a huge two-out single to left center to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs and put the Lancers up 4-3.
SJV would hold on for the 4-3 win when sophomore pitcher Katie Beriont stranded South’s Jill Troiano at third in the top of the seventh by striking out Abbey Schulz to end the game.
“I pulled the seniors over in the middle of the game and I talked to them about how they had to lead us and set the example,” Saint John Vianney head coach Kim Lombardi said. “(August) stepped to the plate and (Solari) stepped up to the plate in the earlier innings. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls.”
August nearly hit a homerun earlier in her fifth inning at bat when the ball fell about a foot shy of clearing the wall and within an inch of the foul line off the wall down the left field line, but the four-year starter regrouped and came through with the game-winning hit later in the at bat.
“I had my team motivating me and everyone had confidence in me to hit the ball,” August said.
“We feel we could go out there and play another one and win it,” she added addressing the fact that her team had just finished playing, and winning, three games in less than twenty-four hours.
While neither team admitted that playing one another the previous night had any effect on the outcome of the game on Saturday, both teams’ play in the field told a different story.
Of the seven runs scored, five were unearned as the teams combined for six errors in the game.
All four of SJV’s runs were set up via the error as South committed two in the third and two in the fifth.
“It’s just one of those games,” Middletown South head coach Tom Erbig said. “Four unearned runs but not to take anything away from [SJV], they got the hits to drive in the runs. We just can’t have errors like that.”
Solari’s two-run single in the third and August’s two-run single in the fifth were SJV’s only clean hits in the game.
Consecutive errors by SJV in the top of the third led to South’s third run of the inning and a 3-0 lead for the Eagles before the Lancers battled back to take the game.
“I have to be honest, I haven’t seen us make mistakes like that, especially back-to-back in that one inning,” Lombardi said. “I was glad my girls were able to keep their composure.”
Next up for the both teams are chances for titles in the Shore Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA state tournament.
Both the Lancers and the Eagles have earned top seeds in the NJSIAA tournament in their respective groupings.
SJV received a first round bye in the NJSIAA Non-public A and will face the winner of (8) Red Bank Catholic and (9) Mount St. Mary on May 29.
Middletown South faced off against 16-seed Jackson in the first round of the NSJIAA Central, Group 4 on Wednesday and will take on 18-seeded Manalapan in the second round of the SCT on Saturday.
SJV will host (19) Holmdel in the second round of the SCT, also on Saturday.