NATIONALLY-RANKED DONOVAN CATHOLIC FOCUSED ON ONE GOAL – T.O.C. CHAMPIONSHIP

 NATIONALLY-RANKED DONOVAN CATHOLIC FOCUSED ON ONE GOAL – T.O.C. CHAMPIONSHIP

By Mike Ready 
 
TOMS RIVER – To be the best, you have to play the best, and Donovan Catholic does exactly that – play the best. 
 
The Griffins – ranked No. 2 in the state – don’t shy away from high-level competition. Year after year, Donovan Catholic tackles one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules in the state. 
 
Playing six teams ranked in the NJ.com Top 20 so far this season, Donovan Catholic has gone 5-1 with their only loss coming against fourth-ranked Immaculate Heart in the first week of the season. The Griffins have wins versus No. 3 Mount St. Dominic, No. 6 Ramsey, No. 11 Lodi Immaculate, No. 17 Northern Burlington, and No. 18 Rancocas Valley, as they’ve steamrolled through their schedule. 
 
The only blemish on their record is that early-season loss to Immaculate Heart – ranked third in the state. 
 
In the Shore Conference, Donovan Catholic (25-1) has two wins against No. 9 Jackson Liberty and they beat No. 10 Holmdel in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals as the No. 2 seed to set up a date with Middletown North – ranked ninth in the state and seeded third – in Wednesday’s SCT semifinals.  
 
The Griffins are the Shore Conference Tournament defending champions, clobbering arch-rival Saint John Vianney, 13-4, in last year’s final after getting knocked out of the state tournament by the Lancers in the NJSIAA South, Non-Public A final, so there’s some unfinished business to take care of. 
 
In 2017, Donovan Catholic won its second straight and third overall sectional title in program history when they edged SJV, 6-5, in the South, Non-Public A championship game, but have yet to capture a state Group title and a trip to the Tournament of Champions.  
 
Donovan Catholic and Saint John Vianney are on a collision course to meet in both the SCT and NJSIAA South, Non-Public A tournament finals if things break as expected. 
 
The Griffins are ranked No. 24 in the latest USA Today national rankings, while the Lancers are ranked No. 21. It’s unprecedented to have two teams from the same conference ranked nationally and you can expect them to rise as the season unfolds. 
 
Although a few of the standouts from last year’s team have moved on, including Alexa Pagano – now playing for Florida International University, Katie Vasquez and Amanda McBurnie, the better part of the team remains intact including five players that are hitting .450 or higher, and a one-two punch of senior Lindsay Nelson (14-1) and junior Kait Mulcahey (8-0), who’ve combined for 13 shutouts and a minuscule 1.24 ERA, on the mound.  
 
Last year’s NJ.com New Jersey Player of the Year and Notre Dame commit Karina Gaskins has picked up where she left off a year ago, putting up astronomical offensive numbers while destroying every opposing pitcher in her path. The junior first baseman boasts a .682 batting average with an incredible 17 home runs, 49 runs batted in and 46 runs scored. 
 
University of Georgia commit and 2018 first-team All-State selection Jayda Kearny isn’t far behind. The junior outfielder, who already surpassed the 100-hit mark for her career earlier this season, is hitting .485 with four home runs, 27 RBI and 29 runs scored. 
 
Another junior first-team All-State pick and member of the 100-hit club, shortstop Kayla Roncin, is also putting up some stellar offensive numbers again this season, checking in with a .573 batting average, five home runs, 14 doubles, 29 RBI and 42 runs scored. 
 
Murderers’ Row doesn’t end there. Second-team All-Shore selection Lindsey Hay is back at it and having another super year. The senior third baseman is hitting .522 with a home run, 29 RBI, five doubles and 32 runs scored. 
 
As noted, Nelson – a third-team All-State pitcher a year ago – has been dominating on the mound but she’s also had a stellar year at the plate as well, hitting .469 with three home runs, 19 RBI and five doubles while drawing a team-high 23 walks. 
 
A starter since her freshman year, junior Mikayla LaPlaca has been a consistent contributor to the already potent Griffins offense. She’s batting .352 with a home run, triple, four doubles, 21 RBI and 25 runs scored. 
 
Senior Mya Lamicella (.317, 3B, 2 2B, 15 RBI), junior Victoria Federico (.238, 2 2B, 13 RBI) and freshman Alyssa Apruzzi (.345, 2 2B, 14 R) have all chipped in adding quality at-bats at the bottom of the order and solid defense. 
 
UPDATE: Donovan Catholic continued to steamroll its way through opponents. On Friday, they blew out No. 9 seed and highly respected Red Bank Catholic, 20-0, in the NJSIAA Non-Public, South A quarterfinals. The Griffins will now play the winner of No. 5 Paul IV versus No. 4 Notre Dame on Thursday, May 30. 
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