• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph softball hosts alumni


St. Joseph’s Macie Jacquet attempts a bunt early in last week’s game against former St. Joe and Sacred Heart players. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Old clashed with new last weekend as St. Joseph Academy’s softball team hosted an alumni game that matched the Wildcats’ current team against a squad composed of former St. Joseph and Sacred Heart high school players.


The event was held as a fundraiser and included sales of St. Joseph apparel, funnel cake and other fried treats.


“I thought it would be a nice event for our players. Normally, I take the team on a spring trip to Florida or Puerto Rico, but because of all that’s going on right now with COVID, we couldn’t go anywhere. This isn’t anything like that, but it’s something fun we can do before the season starts,” St. Joseph softball coach Les Olson said.


Olson took over at St. Joseph in 2017. Prior to that, he served as head coach at Sacred Heart for 11 years before that school was closed in 2013.


“I’ve been at both schools and I had a lot of success at both, so I thought it would be great to include some of my old Sacred Heart players. We had a pretty good response,” Olson said.


Six former Sacred Heart standouts joined a few recent St. Joseph graduates to form a team that squared off against the 2021 edition of the Wildcats.


Jailyn Purnell, a 2020 graduate, played for the alumni team.


“It’s fun. We didn’t get a chance to play last year because the season was canceled, so when Coach Les [Olson] called, I was excited to play,” Purnell said.


There was some good-natured ribbing from both sides during the game, as former teammates faced each other on the field.


“I hope we beat them,” St. Joseph senior Makayla Veneziale said.


Both teams were able to score runs early and often in the game, and afterwards, the players and their families shared food and snacks.


“It’s a fun day. We tried to invite as many former players as we could,” St. Joseph athletic director Anne Marie Mercado said.


The game had originally been scheduled for April 11, but rain forced it to be moved to April 18.


“It’s a shame, because five or six players couldn’t come today because they had other things going on,” Olson said.


In the end, the event was enjoyed by all the players.


“When Coach Les called, I was immediately interested. We had some great teams at Sacred Heart and I was glad to come out and play with some of my former teammates,” 2012 Sacred Heart graduate Rachel Gavigan said.