Once again, Donovan’s Catholic softball program is the only one at the top of the Garden State.
Over a weekend of equal drama and domination, the Griffins won their second straight NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title to end the season as the undisputed No.1 in New Jersey.
On Sunday at Ivy Hill Park on the Seton Hall University campus, Donovan Catholic scored a staggering 17 points late in the third inning and took an 18-5 victory over Livingston in the TOC final. Earlier today, the Griffins beat Group 1 champion Clayton, 3-2, in the semifinals.
Donovan and Livingston, the Group 4 state champion, were stranded in a scoreless tie before the Griffins hit twice, sent a total of 23 batters at home and scored 17 runs on 10 hits in the third inning. Julia Apostolakos was 3-for-3 with three RBIs in the third inning alone, while Charlotte Dwyer scored a two-run brace, Alice DeWaters and Alexis Letizia each had two-run singles and Adriana Romano scored three times. .
Livingston responded with five runs early in the fourth inning and Donovan added another run late in the fourth. The game was called off by the leniency rule after the start of the fifth with Donovan leading by 13 points.
In the circle, Apostolakos struck out four strikes and allowed three earned runs on eight hits.
In the semifinals, the Griffins took a 3-0 lead after four innings and held on for a 3-2 win over the Clippers. Romano pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowed an earned run on five hits and struck out 12. Apostolakos entered in the sixth inning and finished Clayton with four strikeouts in a 1 2/3 relief to send Donovan back to the TOC Championship Game.
While the offensive explosion – even by Donovan’s standard – in the championship game will take its rightful place in the Griffins’ softball tradition, victory in the non-public State A final has already acquired legendary status.
Donovan Catholic was down 7-4 to his last goal against Immaculate Heart Academy in the non-public A final before Romano delivered the ultimate clutch stroke, hitting a three-point tying homerun over the field fence tie the game at seven. Early in the 10th inning, Emily Kurth hit a sacrifice fly that tackled Alyssa Apruzzi with the go-ahead and Romano closed IHA in the bottom half of the inning to give the Griffins the dramatic victory. He also avenged Donovan’s only loss of the season, a 4-2 loss to the IHA on May 15.
Romano, a sophomore, was 3-for-4 with six RBIs and two runs scored and also pitched the last five innings, allowing one run one and eight strikeout.
Under veteran head coach Debbie Schwartz, the Griffins finished the season with a 29-1 record and five championship trophies. They won another Class B South Division title, won the Shore Conference Tournament title, the South A Non-Public Section title, then the Non-Public A State Championship and finally the TOC Crown.
In the SCT final, the Griffins rallied to a 3-2 victory over Colts Neck for their second conference title in the past three seasons. Donovan was ranked No.1 in New Jersey and Colts Neck was ranked No.6 at the time, and the Cougars would go on to win the Group 3 state title and reach TOC.
Donovan’s run for the section title included 10-0 wins over Camden Catholic and St. John Vianney in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively, before Romano pitched a hit with 10 strikeouts in a win. 2-0 against St. Thomas Aquinas in the section title match.
The record, the championships and the final result are even more impressive considering that Donovan was able to repeat with a brand new team. The 2019 team went 30-2 and won the TOC title with a 10-0 victory over Cedar Grove, but lost several seniors on graduation and then the rest of the major contributors to graduation after last season’s cancellation due to COVID-19.
A year before the diamond may have changed the names on the roster card, but the name at the top of the state’s softball landscape remains the same. When it comes to high school softball in New Jersey, Donovan Catholic reigns supreme.
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