By Matthew Rocco
The Saint John Vianney High School softball team advanced to the finals of the Monmouth County Tournament (MCT), continuing its dominant run this season.
A power-hitting lineup and the talented pitching duo of Demi Rivera and Julia Parker have propelled the team to the doorstep of a county championship and, in the process, the undefeated Lancers have become a top contender to win the Shore Conference Tournament.
Top-seeded St. John Vianney slugged its way through the MCT semifinals, as Lindsey Baron and Ally Jones both homered in a 10-0 rout of Freehold Township High School. Rivera was in complete control in the circle, surrendering a mere four hits and striking out eight in a six-inning complete game.
The win pitted St. John Vianney against fellow Shore softball powerhouse Middletown High School North in the MCT finals scheduled for May 16.
“They believe in everything I’m asking of them,” head coach Kim Lombardi said. “They’re using the long ball, and they have the short game, too. Really, one through nine have been contributing to the team’s success.”
After the MCT semifinals, St. John Vianney booked its 20th straight win with a 12-1 victory over Pinelands Regional High School. Rivera threw a five-hitter with seven strikeouts and one walk. The senior was 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in one run. Baron scored four times and went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Parker, a freshman pitcher and first baseman, added a pair of hits and three RBIs in the win.
Lombardi said her two pitchers have found success sharing time in the circle. Both Rivera and Parker, who bats third in the order, are key to the team’s offense as well.
Up and down the lineup, the Lancers aren’t fazed by tough pitchers, which bodes well for them as they enter the postseason.
“We’ve been doing well against some great pitching, and not just 1-0 or 2-0 wins. We’ve beaten them by several runs. I think we are staying hungry. It’s important because at the end of the season, all you see is good pitching,” Lombardi said.
The Lancers (20-0) will soon turn their attention to the Shore Conference Tournament, which begins this week. Seeding was scheduled to be completed May 15.
St. John Vianney also holds a three-game lead in the A Central Division, putting the Lancers in the driver’s seat for a division crown. The Lancers were 12-0 in division games at the start of the week. Raritan High School and Matawan Regional High School were 9-3.
After falling short in the conference and state tournaments a year ago, the Lancers want to finish the job this spring.
“We have to finish. The last couple of seasons, we let some things slip away,” Lombardi said. “They have to continue to stay focused. They’re pretty grounded. If they work hard together, they can win just about any game.”