first_img St. John Vianney High School’s Amanda Durham makes contact with a pitch during the Lancers’ June 9 game against Immaculate Heart Academy in the NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship game at Toms River High School North. St. John Vianney regained the state title, 4-2, avenging last year’s loss to Immaculate Heart. LAUREN CASSELBERRY When Amanda Durham went from first to third on a bunt, it told all you needed to know about St. John Vianney High School’s softball team.It wasn’t going to be denied in the June 9 NJSIAA Non-Public A state finals, played at Toms River High School North.“I wasn’t stopping,” Durham said of her aggressive run. “Speed kills. It puts pressure on the defense.”It was that speed, power from the bat of Katie Bruno and a magnificently pitched game by Katie Beriont that led St. John Vianney to the state championship over defending champion Immaculate Heart Academy, 4-2.“We expected a battle,” said Durham, one of just two seniors on the Lancers.St. John Vianney and Immaculate Heart were meeting for the third straight year in the state finals. The Lancers won in 2011, but the Blue Eagles took the trophy in 2012.Since that state-finals loss to St. John Vianney, Immaculate Heart went 63-1 and was the top-ranked team in the state. Its pitcher, Stephanie Thomas, was 29-1 with 28 shutouts and a 0.29 ERA.St. John Vianney countered with its own ace in Beriont, who was 25-2 with 18 shutouts and a 0.56 ERA.The game didn’t start the way the Lancers would have liked, with the Blue Eagles striking for two runs with two outs in the top of the first. Rachel Pollard delivered the clutch two-RBI single for the defending champions.Facing Thomas made the Lancers’ task daunting, to say the least.Immaculate Heart held that 2-0 lead until the last of the fourth, when everything changed. Baron launched Thomas’ first pitch over the center field wall to put the Lancers on the scoreboard.That hit ignited the team.“Baron’s home run was the table-setter for us,” Lancers head coach Kim Lombardi said.Durham pointed out that the round tripper “got us off the bench.”Baron said that from experience, the team knows that Thomas likes to pitch to the inside and outside corners.She was looking inside, got the pitch she expected and turned on it. The catcher/outfielder knew she had done something big for her team.“Hits are contagious; they’re confidence builders,” Baron said.Proving hits are contagious, Erica Krumbine followed with a single. Claire Stefanelli then put down a perfectly placed bunt that went for a base hit, and the Lancers had a rally going.After a strikeout, Lombardi went back to small ball.“We had to change the pace a little,” said Lombardi. “That’s the way we play.”An errant throw to third by the Blue Eagles on Marlena Bevilacqua’s bunt scored Krumbine with the tying run.Durham followed with another bunt that Thomas fielded and threw home to keep the runner at third, but in the process loaded the bases.The Blue Eagles were clearly shaken, but Thomas pitched out of any further trouble. The die had been cast, though.In the last of the fifth, Beriont used her speed to beat out an infield single.Caitlyn Kelly ran for her and moved into scoring position on Baron’s bunt. Krumbine’s single scored Kelly with the go-ahead run.Durham’s legs provided the insurance run in the last of the sixth. She singled and then went to third on Jackie Gallagher’s bunt. She then scored on a sacrifice fly to left field from Helena Coppola.While this was going on, Beriont had taken charge on the mound. She said in the first inning she had to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone, which she said remained consistent throughout the game. She allowed just two hits after the first inning and just four for the game.Beriont, a 6-foot left-hander, said she told herself after the first inning that there was “a lot of game left to play” and focused on holding down the fort until the team could get its offense going.Once staked to the lead, she wasn’t about to surrender it.“When the team supports you and gives you the lead,” she said. “I had to do [finish the game] for the team.” She did, polishing off her gem with her 12th strikeout of the game. “She’s the best,” Durham said of Beriont.It was an emotional final for Durham, who picked up her third state championship ring in her four years at the Holmdel school. Durham said she will never forget the finals or her teammates.“The great thing about this team is that no one has the weight on their shoulders,” she said. “From one through nine, we can all hit. We know if we don’t get the hit someone will.“We’re really a team, a family.”Lombardi also spoke about how special this season was.“This 2013 team will be a part of me the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite teams. “They had to work for everything,” Lombardi continued. “They were team players.”The title was St. John Vianney’s sixth Group state championship — three under Lombardi, who won a state title in 1997 pitching for Red Bank Catholic High School. The other titles came in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2010 and 2011.Immaculate Heart holds the all-time mark with nine.St. John Vianney finished the season with a 29-2 record, while Immaculate Heart was 31-2.In addition to their state championship, the Lancers won the Shore Conference A Central Division, Monmouth County Tournament and Non-Public South A championships. By TIM MORRIS Staff Writer This text will be replacedlast_img