Rachel Gavigan eagerly awaited the text message back on a cold winter day in January.
The answer she got only helped fuel the fire that was already flaming intensely.
Fearing the worst when the Camden Diocese announced it would be shutting down Sacred Heart High School at the end of the scholastic year, the senior worried about the upcoming softball season. She texted coach Les Olson immediately and asked, “What is the team going to do?”
Gavigan smiled at his reply, “Lead the team to its first state title.”
That’s exactly what the senior helped to accomplish on Saturday as the Lions’ leader collected three hits and an RBI in Sacred Heart’s 3-1 win over Immaculate Conception-Lodi in the Non-Public B championship at Toms River North High School.
“It’s been a wild ride and here we are, we’re state champions,” Gavigan said. “We brought the state title back to South Jersey.”
Gavigan said there was relief when Sacred Heart eventually learned it would remain open weeks after the initial decision.
However, the wild reversal of emotions only helped strengthen the bond between the players and bring the goal of a state title even more into focus.
“All the hard work, it really does pay off,” she said. “It makes every scar, every bruise all worth it.”
Gavigan will be remembered as one of the greatest all-around players in Sacred Heart history and has the numbers to prove it. She finished with 166 hits, 166 runs and 136 RBIs for her career.
And, she only added to her legacy against Immaculate Conception.
Trailing 1-0 in the third inning, Gavigan batted with runners on first and second. She lofted a fly ball down the right field line but the IC second baseman dropped the ball in foul territory.
Given a second chance, Gavigan made the opposition pay. She connected on a 3-2 fastball and drove the ball to the center-field fence for an RBI double.
Gavigan added two more singles and scored the decisive run in the sixth inning, thumping her chest after crossing the plate.
As the final out of the game was recorded, Gavigan dropped to her knees and looked up to the heavens and said “thank you,” before joining her teammates in a pileup in the middle of the field.
The rest of the Lions, including Olson, could have said the same to Gavigan too.
“She is just an unbelievable kid, the heart and soul of this team for sure,” Olson said. “That’s why I looked for her in the pile. I wanted to give her a hug. She has meant so much to this program.
“I wanted this for her. She went out and she got it. It couldn’t have been a better ending.”