HOLMDEL – One of the most consistent and dominant teams in New Jersey softball has been the Saint John Vianney Lancers. Year in and year out they continue to be in the middle of championship runs every season. This season will be no different, as they look to defend their NJSIAA Non-Public A South crown.
Last season the Lancers won their first title since 2013 with a 2-0 victory over previously unbeaten Donovan Catholic in the Non-Public A South final. The Griffins were the thorns in Saint John Vianney’s side the past several years as they eliminated them the last two postseasons. They beat St. Dominic in the Non-Public Group final before losing to Steinert, 3-2, in the Tournament of Champions.
Saint John Vianney finished with an impressive record of 27-2, their two losses coming against Donovan Catholic in the Shore Conference final and Steinert in the TOC. Along the way the Lancers played an incredible Non-Public final against the Griffins in which Julia Parker threw three-hit ball and shut down the state’s most potent offense which scored in double figures almost every game. Against St. Dominic the Lancers scored two runs in the second inning on RBI singles from Ally Jones and Gillian Zack, while Parker went seven strong innings allowing just one run on seven hits.
Saint John Vianney is once again loaded and looking to continue their winning ways at the Shore Conference. They will also look to win their unprecedented 10th straight Monmouth County championship.
The Lancers return third-team All-State sophomore Hayley Ahr (.367 BA, 29 RBI, 23 runs scored, 11 doubles, 29 innings pitched, 5-0, 32 K’s), first-team All-State junior Parker (22-0, 18 earned runs, 151 IP, 196 K’s, .379 BA, 19 RBI, 5 home runs), Jones (.372 BA, 28 RBI, 32 hits), Gabby Polera (.359 BA, 6 home runs, 27 RBI, 24 runs scored) and Alexis Agrapides (.430 BA, 3 home runs, 23 RBI, 32 runs scored).
When asked about the team’s focus coming into the season, Agrapides said, “We are off to a great start this year and everyone is focused on one game at a time and not looking past anyone. We have a lot of great competition in our division, state and non-conference schedule.”
When asked if there was one person to step up and be the leader the team, not one player jumped, rather they all looked at each other until Polera offered, “There is no one leader on the team, we all pick each other up if one person is struggling .Everyone has everyone’s backs and that is what makes this group so much fun to be around We are one family.”
This season the Lancers are off to a hot 3-0 start – jumping all over Wall, 10-0; Middletown South, 17-3; and Ocean Township, 14-0.
Against Wall, SJV scored 10 runs in the first three innings, including a two-run homer from Parker, who also shut the Knights down in the first three innings with six strikeouts.
Against the Eagles, it was Parker and Jones who would combine for 10 runs batted in, six hits and two doubles. Parker also pitched seven strong innings giving up two runs on five hits for the win.
Against the Spartans, Saint John Vianney was led by Agrapides with two RBI and two hits; Jessica Campana with 2 RBI, Jones with 3 RBI and Polera with 3 RBI and four hits. Parker and Ahr would combine for five solid innings and eight strikeouts and just two hits.
SJV will be joining Donovan Catholic and 14 other top-tier teams as they compete in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association tournament. All of the top five teams in the NJ.com preseason Top 20 will be competing, as well as nine of the top 11 teams in those rankings, with the potential for some big semifinal matchups between the top two teams and the third- and fourth-seeded teams in their respective groups.
The Lancers and Griffins have the chance to meet up in the tournament, should Saint John Vianney beat Immaculate Heart and Donovan win their contest, which could make for the some early season drama.
Following the tournament, Saint John Vianney will face Lenape Valley (April 13) and Middletown North (April 16).