2004-06-24 / Sports
Vianney makes history with perfect 33-0 mark
BY GEORGE ALBANO
HOLMDEL — It was the ultimate "Dream Season."
That might be the only way to describe the kind of season the 2004 St. John Vianney High School girls softball team had this spring. All the Lady Lancers did was compile a perfect 33-0 record, win the Shore Conference, the Monmouth County title and the NJSIAA Parochial A state championship.
But what really made what they did so special, what really set this past season apart from any other, was the 33 victories. No other girls softball team in New Jersey state history has ever won that many.
"We’re the first team in the state to win 33 games," head coach Aado Kommendant proudly boasted. "We’re about the 15th or 16th team to go undefeated, but we had the most wins of all of them."
It could be a record that stands for a long time, too. Just playing 33 games in a single season is pretty hard to do, what with rainouts and all.
"We were lucky enough to play every game on our schedule," Kommendant pointed out. "Thirty-three games is the most games we could have played. Going into the season, we knew we couldn’t play any more.
"So it’s almost impossible to top that the way the playoffs are set up. Unless they change the playoffs, a team can’t play more than 33 games. A public school could, but not a parochial school."
But even if a team was to play as many as 33 games, or more, it would have to win all of them to tie or surpass the Lancers’ record. That’s the tricky part.
The St. John Vianney girls softball program certainly knows a thing or two about winning. The state championship was the Lancers’ third in four years. They also won the Parochial A title in 2001 and 2002, and only a 3-0, 12-inning loss to Immaculate Heart Academy in last year’s state final prevented a three-peat.
This year’s Shore Conference championship was also the Lancers’ fourth overall and their third in Kommendant’s seven years as head coach, to go along with the crowns he won in 1999 and 2002. Kommendant was an assistant coach with the 1997 team that also captured top honors.
Of course, no team can go 33-0 without contributions from a number of players. There’s no question, however, the key to this year’s success was junior pitcher Tricia Reingle, who went 30-0 with a 0.07 ERA and a school-record 364 strikeouts in 194 innings.
"She set the record as a sophomore and broke it as a junior," Kommendant noted.
Reingle, who had 26 shutouts, was also named first-team All-Shore Conference, All-County and All-State, and was selected as the 2004 Gatorade New Jersey Softball Player of the Year.
"We’ve always been very fortunate to have very good pitchers," Kommendant said. "We had Kathryn Bucco, who graduated in 1999, and she was replaced by Jackie Adelfio, who graduated in 2002. So we’ve been fortunate to have good pitchers.
"But the year Tricia had on the mound this year topped them all. She had good speed, but what made her a cut above the rest was her off-speed pitch and her control."
Kommendant and the Lancers are fortunate they will have another good pitcher next year, too. Her name is Tricia Reingle, who will be back for her senior year.
"It would be hard to top what she accomplished this year," Kommendant said. "But I wouldn’t discount the possibility she gets even better next season."
In fact, most of this year’s St. John Vianney softball team will be back. The Lancers lose only one senior, center fielder Jessica Zreeland, who batted .363 with two home runs and 27 RBIs.
But while her loss will be felt, the rest of this year’s starting lineup consisted of four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen, all of whom return next season.
"We’re already looking forward to next softball season," Kommendant said.
Who knows, maybe that 33-0 state record will be tested after all. The Lancers certainly have some big sticks coming back, led by Katie Eder, a sophomore first baseman this season who led the team with a .400 batting average and 33 RBIs while belting a pair of homers.
Amanda Rooney, another sophomore who played right field, led the club with four HRs while hitting .346 and driving in 18 runs. Jaime Tupino, a junior shortstop, hit .315 and scored 21 runs.
Then there was freshman second baseman Katie DeBlasio, who had some key RBIs throughout the season, and junior left fielder Amanda D’Alessio, who provided stellar defense. Another defensive stalwart was sophomore third baseman Lauren Galladay.
"She stopped just about everything that came her way," Kommen-dant said.
Junior catcher Lauren Incorvaia and freshman designated hitter Kelly McGinniss rounded out the talented lineup.
The experience the St. John Vianney team gained this season should also be invaluable next year. The unbeaten Lancers were tested a few times during the season, including in their two biggest games, which also happened to be their last two games.
In the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament, St. John Vianney edged Toms River East 1-0 in nine innings, scoring the game’s only run in the top of the ninth when, with two outs, Eder singled, D’Alessio pinch ran for her and stole second, and Zreeland singled her home.
Then, in their next game, the Lancers faced Mount St. Dominick in the state finals and also won that game 1-0. They scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh when Reingle singled and Eder walked to put runners on first and second. Zreeland then laid down a two-strike bunt that was misplayed into an error as pinch-runner Laura Aniello raced home with the winning run to cap St. John Vianney’s 33-0 state championship season.
"We won our last two games in our last at-bat," Kommendant said. "And Jessica Zreeland won both of them in her last two games as a senior. That was quite a finish for her. She deserved it."
But perhaps the Lancers were never tested more than in their 10th game of the season against Matawan. They trailed 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth when Eder and Zreeland hit back to back doubles to make it 2-1.
Then after the first two batters made out in the last of the seventh, Galladay singled, Aniello pinch ran for her, and McGinniss, on a 1-2 pitch, hit a pinch-hit RBI double to tie it. Reingle then won it in the bottom of the eighth with a home run to keep the Lancers’ unbeaten record intact.
"I’ve always thought the true test of a team is how it reacts to adversity," Kommendant said, "and this team passed the test."
The Lancers passed 33 tests in all, some harder than others, on their way to the record book. It truly was a "Dream Season," the likes of which may never be seen again.
"Two years ago, we went 28-3 and won the same championships — the Shore Conference, the county and the state championship," Kommendant said. "We called that the season of our lives. But this really was the season of our lives."