GLASSBORO — Gloucester Catholic went into Tuesday's Non-Public A South Sectional Final at Rowan University with hopes of making it back to a fifth straight state championship game. However, the Lancers of St. John Vianney had other plans.
In what proved to be an exciting game, Vianney (19-7) won with a walk-off single by Anthony Santoro to win the Non-Public Group A South title, 3-2.
The Rams' loss ended their bid to set a state record by winning five straight state titles. Their four straight ties with Cherry Hill West (1989-92) for the state mark.
Through most of the game, Rams pitcher, John Murphy, and the Lancers, Justin Chin were involved in a very entertaining pitchers' duel. Through four and a half innings, Gloucester Catholic could only muster two hits, with St. John Vianney only able to collect three.
In the bottom of the fifth, things started to unravel a bit for Gloucester Catholic (25-6). With one out and no one on, Nick Gugliara of St. John, hit a ground ball back to the pitcher. Murphy came off the mound, and played for a hop. However, the ball didn’t hop and squirted right through his legs, allowing Gugliara to reach first on the error. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second, Anthony Santoro laced a single to the outfield, scoring Gugliara, to give St John the elusive first run of the game.
Rams coach, Mike Rucci, knows how the game can be and saw this as just a strange basebally play.
“Baseball is a crazy game,” Rucci said. “Some days that ball hops up into Murphy’s glove and he makes the play. Today, the ball didn’t hop and went through his legs.”
On the play that scored Gugliara, Santoro advanced to second on a throwing error, putting him in position to score on Chris Loney’s single, giving the Lancers a 2-0 lead.
Gloucester Catholic would not go away quietly, however. After scoring a run in the sixth to cut the lead in half, sophomore, Tyler Mondile stepped up to the plate with one out in the seventh. On a three-two pitch, Mondile smoked a shot off the top of the fence in right field for a one=out triple. Fran Kinsey drove Mondile in with a ground out to short to tie the game at 2-2.
Coach Mike Morgan of St. John did not feel the pressure after the game was tied in the top of the seventh.
Morgan’s message to his team was clear. “I told them we are going to get people on base and we are going to score runs,” Morgan said. “I told them if you execute and get a guy on base, we are going to score and win this game.”
And execute they did.
After Gugliara singled, Pat Devenney walked, bringing Santoro back to the plate with one out. Again, Santoro delivered on a two-strike single to score Gugliara and win the South Jersey title for the Lancers.
“All day he was getting that fastball in, then he would come with the curveball,” Santoro said. “He threw the fastball before that I just missed, and I said to myself, 'All right, I think he’s going to throw a curveball.' I just got a good piece of it and luckily, it got through.”
With the loss, the Gloucester Catholic seniors will have to move on to the next chapter of their baseball careers. However, for the underclassmen, there is always next year.
Kinsey, a junior, sees this difficult time as a learning experience, and one that will be a motivator next season.
“It’s definitely the toughest thing this team has ever been through since I’ve been here,” Kinsey said. “We’ve never felt what it’s like to lose at this time of the year, and it’s a feeling you never want to feel again. This game will be on our minds for a long time, and we will use this game for motivation next year. I feel bad for every single team we’ll play.”
The loss was Gloucester Catholic's first in the postseason since the 2009 season, when this team's seniors were eighth graders.