Lancers' bats speak back in the clutch

Lancers' bats speak back in the clutch

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Lancers' bats speak back in the clutch

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HOLMDEL

Prior to her team’s fifth at-bat, St. John Vianney head coach Kim Lombardi had her players get their bats, gather in a circle and hold their bats in the middle of the circle.

No, it wasn’t some sort of freaky version of the Hokey Pokey. Instead, Lombardi simply asked the question, “Now, which bat is going to get the hit we need to score this inning?” Playing the role of ventriloquist, junior shortstop Jackie Gallagher spoke up for her bat, “I will.”

Gallagher’s bat answered during the subsequent at-bat as well, as she whacked a single to right field to score Marlena Bevilacqua with an insurance run and the Lancers went on to win, 2-0, over Middletown South in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals.

“That little bat thing gets us pumped up,” Gallagher said. “I talked to my bat before I got up there and told it we were going to get the hit. We needed the extra run, so I just wanted to do what I could to get the big hit for us.”

In the second inning, the Lancers (28-1) scored their first run when winning pitcher Kate Beriont singled to left field and senior Chelsea Vena, running for Beriont, went to second when junior Kate Baron reached on an error. Both runners then advanced on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Erica Krumbine, and Vena scored when sophomore Claire Stefanelli swatted a grounder to first base.

In the third and fourth, Vianney put a leadoff runner in scoring position but the big hit didn’t surface as Eagles senior pitcher Alli Podmajersky worked out of both instances unscathed.

“Pod’s a great pitcher,” said Lancers senior center fielder Amanda Durham. “We wanted to come into the game and get good cuts at the ball. And we did, but she’s really good at mixing pitches and hitting spots.”

In the fifth, the Lancers finally got that next big hit. After Bevilacqua walked to lead off the at-bat, Durham dropped a sacrifice bunt to move her to second base. Gallagher then hit the first pitch into right and Bevilacqua got in behind the tag at home plate to make it a two-run contest.

Meanwhile, Beriont cruised along, allowing a leadoff double to Podmajerksy in the top of the second, a one-out infield single on a slap by Phoenix Starick in the top of the third, and a two-out single to Podmajersky in the top of the fourth. In the fifth, sixth and seventh, Beriont (25-1), who finished with six strikeouts and no walks, retired the Eagles (18-10) in order to send SJV back to the SCT final.

“I’m proud of my kids,” said Middletown South head coach Tom Erbig. “They didn’t play scared. They came out here, got their bats on the ball and played hard. Vianney’s kids made some really nice plays in the field to shut us down, and I thought Pod did a phenomenal job for us again. There’s a lot of pressure on her when we’re not scoring runs, but she handled it great today.”

The Lancers will go up against Jordan Weed and Toms River East at Wall High School, starting at 4 p.m., on Thursday.

“Alli’s a great pitcher and she’s always great competition for us,” Gallagher said. “We just had to stay focused and try to make the most of our chances. We did that a couple of times and it was enough today.”

SJ Vianney 2, Midd. South 0

Midd. South (18-10) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 1
SJ Vianney (28-1) 0 1 0 0 1 0 x 2 6 0

2B: (M) Podmajersky. WP: Beriont (25-1); LP: Podmajersky (14-8).

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