By Jim Hintelmann
WALL – When No. 1 pitcher Katie Beriont went down with a torn ACL during the basketball season, St. John Vianney softball coach Kim Lombardi still kept a hopeful outlook.
“I didn’t think the season would be over by any means,” Lombardi said, “but I knew that we would have to work hard.”
Lombardi’s hopes proved to be justified when junior Ashley Ventura stepped up big-time to become the ace of the staff, with her latest achievement being Sunday’s 4-0 shutout of Manasquan in the Monmouth County Red Division Tournament championship game at Wall High School.
It was SJV’s fifth straight county title.
“Ashley would be No. 1 on any program,” Lombardi said. “She has done an outstanding job for us.”
“I never felt that there was any pressure on me going into the season,” said Ventura, who scattered four hits and struck out 11. “I knew that I would have a strong team and good coaching staff behind me.”
The game was scoreless going into the top of the fifth inning when SJV scored its first two runs on shortstop Jackie Gallagher’s two-run single.
“I was waiting for my pitch,” said Gallagher, a three-sports standout in softball, basketball and field hockey. She will be playing field hockey at Fairfield University in Connecticut next season.
“It was a screwball and I was able to get my bat on the ball,” she said. “I knew that we had to get those runs.”
SJV added two more insurance runs in the seventh on Kate Baron’s sacrifice fly and a Manasquan error.
Manasquan, which dropped its third game to SJV this season (the two teams compete in the A Central Division), threatened in its half of the seventh when Victoria Galvan and Katie Barnes singled with one out, but Ventura retired the next two batters to end the game.
“All my pitches were working for me today,” Ventura said. “I was hitting my spots and I wasn’t too worried. They might have picked up my pitching sequence, but I was able to finish the game.”
“Ashley got stronger as the game went along,” Lombardi said. “I have complete confidence in her and the other girls.”
“Gallagher has been outstanding this season,” she said. “She leads the team in hits and RBIs.”