By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor
It wasn’t so much the destination, as it was the journey for the Holy Cross Prep Academy softball team.
Photo Gallery: Holy Cross v. St. Joseph, Hammonton, in softball game May 31, 2019
The final destination was a 10-2 loss to top-seeded St. Joseph of Hammonton in the NJSIAA Non-Public B South championship game at Rowan University, Glassboro, May 31.
But there was a lot of fun getting there for the Lancers, who were seeded second and in pursuit of their first-ever Non-Public B title. Holy Cross’ last sectional title came when it won South Jersey Non-Public A, en route to a state crown.
“It was amazing,” said senior centerfielder Tessa Bruneau of Edgewater Park. “We won the division for the first time since the 1980s. We definitely weren’t expecting all this but being a two seed, we definitely showed everyone what we could do.”
Holy Cross finished 17-7 and won the Burlington County Patriot Division for the first time in more than 30 years. Everything after that was added fun.
“I give the kids a lot of credit,” coach Mike Sacca said. “We went out and their first goal was to win the division, and we did that.
“We ran into a buzzsaw today. We couldn’t manufacture things, we couldn’t hold them off but hey, they put their bat on the ball, they put the ball in play and they found all the holes.”
St. Joe’s carried a 30-2 record into the June 2 state finals. The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and were robbed of more on a great running catch by Bruneau, who will play softball at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, next fall.
In the bottom of the second, the Wildcats put runners on second and third with no outs; but pitcher Emma Chiemiego got out of it unscathed.
“I feel everyone got really hyped for our at-bats after that,” senior shortstop, Cam Curiale, said.
Unfortunately, the Lancers could never mount a rally. They put runners on in every inning, collecting eight hits off a stellar pitcher, but could not bunch any together until it was too late. Bruneau had three hits while Curiale and Lauren Hoffman each had two.
St. Joe’s had built an 8-0 lead by the time Chiemiego delivered a two-run double in the sixth inning.
It was too little too late, but for the Lancers it was exciting just to play in a championship game.
“It was an exciting game,” Bruneau said. “We came out here, we were ready to play, we had a lot of fun.”
“It was different today,” said Curiale, a Burlington City resident headed to Holy Family University, Philadelphia. “There’s a lot of competition. All of their batters can hit the ball really good.”
Holy Cross reached the finals by defeating Doane Academy, Burlington, 10-2. Prior to that, it knocked off two-time defending sectional champion Wildwood Catholic, 2-1, despite playing without two players.
“That was a big game for us,” Bruneau said.
It was a big game in what turned out to be a big season.
“To win the division was our first goal,” Curiale said. “When we made the playoffs, our coach said: ‘You’re gonna make it really far’ and we just worked as hard as we could to get here.”