TOMS RIVER — St. Joseph High School’s softball team was painted into a tough spot.
Coach Candi Dean had to shift her girls into a new set of roles in Saturday afternoon's Non-Public B state final at Toms River North High School and her team fell to Immaculate Conception 5-0, falling short of its state title aspirations.
With the absence of top pitcher, Dominique D’Andrea, who was in Florida due to a commitment with a college recruiting camp, the Wildcats had an uphill climb.
First baseman Olivia Kerr said D’Andrea kept the calling to check in on their progress and was mad she could be at the game.
So, Dean called on sophomore shortstop Taylor Sirolli to try her luck in the circle. That lead to a whirlwind of changes including switches with two infield spots and two outfield spots.
Despite the defensive deck shuffing, the Wildcats committed just one error. As for Sirolli, despite giving up some runs (most of which came in the game's latter portion), she and fellow sophomore, Immaculate’s Sarah Piening, locked horns in a pitchers' duel.
The two opposing pitchers combined for nineteen strikeouts and four 1-2-3 innings. Neither pitcher allowed an extra base hit.
“I’m so proud of Taylor. I think she’ll always remember this day and it will be great for her next year,” coach Dean said after the game.
When asked what she thought about her team’s performance, Dean replied, “For the most part, I think we did everything right. It was one of those games where there was a blooper here, a ball just through the hole there, and that helped them get some quality rallies.”
As for the St. Joe offense, they looked destined to get to get the Immaculate sophomore early on. In each of the first two innings St. Joe’s had all the elements for successful rallies, except for the runs.
In the first, Carly Testa and Mikela Power worked walks but were left on base. Again in the second, St. Joe applied pressure. Kathryn Bromiley lead off the inning with a single. After a Cara Owsley sacrifice bunt, Alyssa Halt walked and Testa got on again, this time with a single.
However, Piening nullified each threat en route to her complete game shutout.
“It stinks losing, but the season has been hard and great,” said Kerr after the game. She said her team was a family, having played together for two years. Not a single senior was on St. Joe's 2013 squad, and the returnees put a lot of effort into making this season special.
Sorrelli was visibly down after the game, but when she was asked to reflect on how the playoff run went. “We came into playoffs and tried to make it feel like we were just playing regular games. We kept battling and battling. We played really well on defense. We hit well. We never gave up in any game and always had each other’s backs. It was amazing.”