Jordan Weed knew Mater Dei wasn’t going to be a pushover.
“We definitely didn’t come in thinking we’d have an easy win today,” said Toms River East’s senior pitcher following a 6-0 victory over the Seraphs in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals on Saturday. “But we were confident, and we came in with the mindset that we were winning this game, more for our coach than anything else.”
Not only did the victory send the third-seeded Raiders (24-4) into the SCT championship game, scheduled for Wednesday, against either top-seeded St. John Vianney or fourth-seeded Middletown South, but it also gave East head coach Debbie Schwartz the 500th victory of her 25-year career.
“The stakes were high and there was some pressure,” said Weed, who struck out 11 and walked one while allowing two hits. “But I like the pressure. I was confident. I felt great. My stuff was really good. And today we were playing as a family. We wanted to make Coach Schwartz proud.”
The Raiders took control early in the contest, scoring three times in the bottom of the first. After Taylor Dziedzic singled to left and Cassie Varvaro reached on an infield single, an error on a ball bunted by Sarah Bencivenga loaded the bases. Weed came up and flew out to Mater Dei center fielder Jordan Donohue, who fired to the plate to prevent a tagup.
But on the throw, Bencivenga remained between first and second, drawing a throw from catcher Erin Batz. With Bencivenga caught in a rundown, Dziedzic raced home as Varvaro went to third and Bencivenga slid in safely to second. Val Hirschfeld then swatted a single to left to bring in Varvaro and Sam Lanzano’s groundout allowed Bencivenga to score to make it 3-0.
In the second, Jodi Bruno reached on an infield single and scored three batters later when Varvaro bunted her way on for a hit, bringing Bruno in for the fourth run. In the fifth, Bencivenga led off with a single to left before Weed crushed a pitch from Jackie Nash and sent it over the left-field fence for a two-run blast.
Meanwhile, the 15th-seeded Seraphs (24-4), in the SCT semifinals for the first time in program history, mustered very little on offense. Senior shortstop Larisa Chiesa managed a hard-hit infield single to the backhand side of East first baseman Kyleigh Norris in the fourth, while Mater Dei got a two-out single to right-center from Batz in the fifth.
Otherwise, Weed was simply overpowering. After Chiesa’s hit, she struck out the side, then started the top of the fifth with two more strikeouts, including her 350th of the season.
On a couple of occasions, the Seraphs made big defensive plays to prevent the Raiders from tacking on more runs. In the bottom of the fifth, on a soft popup behind third baseman Emilie Boman, Chiesa made a great sliding basket catch underneath Boman’s glove to keep Dziedzic off the bases. And in the sixth, a screaming line drive by Weed was deflected down by Nash, and Chiesa picked up the ball and fired to first to end East’s final at-bat.
“They battled, and we were concerned about them,” Schwartz said. “They had a great run to get to this game, and we had to jump on them early. In that first inning, I think we knocked the wind out of their sails.”
IN AN SCT QUARTERFINAL:
SJ VIANNEY 5, RARITAN 0: The Lancers scored once in the second when winning pitcher Kate Beriont doubled to right-center and Chelsea Venam, running for Beriont, scored on a single to center by Erica Krumbine to provide all the runs Beriont, who fanned seven and walked two while tossing a four-hitter, needed as St. John Vianney (26-1) advanced to the semifinals to meet Middletown South.
In the fourth, the Lancers added a run when Claire Stefanelli singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single to right-center by Ashley Ventura. Vianney added three runs in the bottom of the sixth to seal the victory. Beriont and Stefanelli finished 3-for-3, while Krumbine went 2-for-3 and Ventura drove in a pair. For Raritan (22-10), Nicole Coppolino went 2-for-3 while Brianna Rinaldi and Daniella Marino each singled.
SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
TR East 6, Mater Dei 0
|Mater Dei (24-4)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||–||0||2||3|
|TR East (24-4)||3||1||0||0||2||0||x||–||6||9||1|
HR: (T) Weed. WP: Weed (24-4); LP: J. Nash (21-4).
SJ Vianney 5, Raritan 0
|SJ Vianney (26-1)||0||1||0||1||0||3||x||–||5||13||0|
2B: (S) Durham, Beriont. WP: Beriont (23-1); LP: Schaffer (17-8).