Defense separating SJV from other Lancer teams

first_img St. John Vianney St. John Vianney’s airtight defensive softball team plays for this time of year as it heads into tournament time. The Lancers, in search of a third straight Monmouth County Tournament title, won their opener, 4-1, over Middletown North on April 28 and play host to Manalapan in the next round on May 5 at a time to be determined. The Lancers are the top seed.In April, St. John Vianney also ran its Shore Conference A Central record to 8-0 with a 7-0 victory over Shore Regional.Along with playing Manalapan, it also plays its third Shore Conference A Central game at Holmdel at 2 p.m. May 5. Games around the state are scheduled later that day because of SATtests being taken in the morning.Carrying a 14-2 record into the home stretch of the season, St. John Vianney on May 1 plays at Rumson Fair-Haven and on May 3 plays host to Raritan in league games. Because Manalapan plays its league games on the other days of this week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — St. John’s agreed to a late Saturday (May 5) game.Although it makes for a hectic Saturday again this weekend, coach Kim Lombardi feels it’s nothing her team can’t handle.“Many of these girls play on travel teams that sometimes play four games in a day, and if they can’t play two games in a Saturday, then I don’t know what they can do,” said Lombardi.The veteran coach said this year’s team “hasn’t peaked yet,” but feels this is a team that may be set aside on its defensive skills fromher past teams and the teams that the last two years reached five goals — winning county tournament finals and going on to win NJSIAA section and state titles, winning division titles and reaching the Shore Conference Tournament final where it lost two years ago to Red Bank Catholic. “Certain kids are starting to settle in.”But what sets this team apart from others in recent years is what Lombardi praises as “an incredibly solid defense, the best I’ve seen here” where eight starters return.“I agree 100 percent,” said senior catcher Kristen Solari, who is headed this fall to Johnson and Wales on a financial scholarship package. “We work hard in practice and it shows in games. We work well together.”“Our defense has always been strong and we have great coaches who prepare us for games,” said senior second baseman Cailin Winokur, who is headed to Fordham on a financial scholarship package. “Our defense is really strong this year, no weak spots.”Winokur feels her determined play has rubbed off on the younger players like sophomore shortstop Jackie Gallagher. “I’ve been working hard at it and took lessons,” Winokur said. “It’s up to me to start stepping up and make plays to show it can be done and then our shortstop starts picking up on that, too. I’m so proud of how the underclassmen are stepping up.”Veteran starter Kate Beriont, a left-handed sophomore with a 9-1 pitching record coming into this week, is joined by freshman Ashley Ventura, who raised her record to 5-1 with a no-hitter against Southern Regional. It was the third no-hitter thrown by St. John’s pitchers, with Beriont hurling the other two. Beriont held Middletown North to four hits in its county tournament opener. She hurled the county tournament and Shore Conference Tournament championship victories among her 13 wins on last season’s 29-1 team.They fill the void left by graduated pitcher Jen Retzer, who had 16 wins. She is at the University of Pennsylvania.Lombardi said her pitching so far has been “pretty good” and the hitting is solid, led by Solari’s .647 batting average. “I worked really hard on it in the off-season with mechanics and having a positive attitude,” Solari said.“She’s been hitting the ball the way she should and has been a leader,” Winokur said.And she is not alone in that regard.“Everyone hits .300, .400 and.500 in our batting order,” Lombardi said. That includes .500 hitters Winokur, who hits No. 2 in the lineup, and leadoff hitter Gallagher. Senior Taylor August at third base and freshman Erica Krumbine at first complete the infield. August has accepted a financial package from Fairfield University.Junior center fielder Amanda Durham, senior left fielder Zoe Otterman and sophomore right fielder Kate Baron start in the outfield with young backups Marlene Bevilacqua a sophomore, and freshman Breanna Keelan, who also supply speed on the offense as pinch runners. Freshman backup catcher Hannah Milano has had opportunities to play in some commanding victories.Durham powered the victory over Middletown North with two hits for two RBIs while Baron lined two doubles and Otterman drove in another run. True to form in the balanced offensive attack, Gallagher drove in two runs with three hits against Shore.“We’ve been coming out with a lot of heart and intensity,” Solari said.Winokur feels it will help in the tournament games.“I have so much faith in the team and we all pick each other up,” Winokur said. “We’re very together, which is different from a lot of teams.” BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent Softball team is 14-2, top seed in MCT last_img

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