• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph softball keeps rolling


St. Joseph shortstop Brianna Bailey sends a throw to first base to retire a Middle Twp. batter early in last week’s game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Warming up prior to last week’s game against Middle Twp., St. Joseph Academy first baseman Xelynn Conde was upset.


“I’m not swinging the bat good enough. We’ll see how I do today,” Conde said as she took a practice swing off a tee behind the St. Joseph dugout.


Conde may have been nervous, but she produced when it mattered the most for the Wildcats, delivering a game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning that capped a late comeback and kept St. Joseph’s softball team undefeated.


“She [Conde] puts a lot of pressure on herself, but she came up big for us today,” St. Joseph coach Les Olson said.


St. Joe struggled to reach base for five innings against Middle pitcher Charlotte Selover, who mixed her pitches well, coaxing lazy fly balls and light grounders for most of the game.


Selover pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first inning, and was never really in trouble again until the bottom of the sixth.


While St. Joseph was frustrated at the plate, the visiting Panthers were manufacturing runs off Wildcats’ starter Davi Jimenez.


Middle scored three runs in the top of the second, two coming on Selovers’ double.


St. Joe finally broke through in the bottom of the third, as Jimenez drew a two-out walk and scored on Makayla Veneziale’s double.


The score remained 3-1 until the top of the sixth, when a pair of walks put two runners on for Middle Twp.


Olson brought in Veneziale to relieve Jimenez, and she quickly recorded a strikeout. St. Joe was close to escaping the jam, but a throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed both runners to score as the Panthers took a 5-1 lead.


For the first time this season, St. Joe appeared headed for a loss, but the Wildcats rallied in their half of the sixth, scoring four runs to tie the game.


Conde led off with a walk, and after Selover struck out two batters, Brogan Heilig lifted a ball into the right centerfield gap that skipped past Middle’s centerfielder, scoring Conde and allowing Heilig to reach third base.


“That was a huge hit for us. Brogan [Heilig] hasn’t played much this season and she came up with a big two-out hit,” Olson said.


Brianna Bailey then reached on an error, allowing Heilig to score. After Macie Jacquet walked, a passed ball allowed Bailey to score before Katie Dainton delivered an RBI single to score Jacquet and tie the game, 5-5.


Veneziale retired Middle in order in the top of the seventh, and in the bottom of the inning, she led off with a single, setting up Conde’s game-winning heroics.


The sophomore took a pitch for a ball before sending a line drive down just inside the third baseline that bounced to the fence in the left field corner, allowing Veneziale to sprint around the bases for the game-winning run.


“I felt nervous, but I told myself to calm down, the winning run was on first base. I knew I just had to put the bat on the ball. It felt good,” Conde said.


Conde said that despite trailing for most of the game, St. Joe was confident it would win.


“At first I was nervous, but we’re St. Joe. We can comeback anytime, any day, no matter what the score is. 5-0, 10-0, 15-0, we trust ourselves,” Conde said.


“I thought we’d eventually break through. We were putting the ball in play, but they made some good plays to keep us off base. We didn’t have the best pregame warmup, and I think it carried over a little early in the game, but we broke through,” Olson said.


The win came after St. Joe had opened the week with wins against Atlantic County Institute of Technology (ACIT) and Bridgeton.


Playing at ACIT, St. Joe cruised to a 14-1 win as Veneziale allowed two hits and struck out seven.


Bailey had two hits, including a double, and scored four runs, while Jacquet doubled and scored twice.


Bailey, Jacquet and Veneziale each had two hits in St. Joseph’s 11-0 win against Bridgeton.


Conde doubled and drove in two, while Jimenez earned the win with six strikeouts.


Last weekend, St. Joe hosted ACIT and won 12-1. Jimenez homered, drove in three and scored three times, while Karlee Middleman and Dainton each drove in two runs. Veneziale struck out nine in the win.


On May 2, St. Joseph wrapped up a busy week by winning the Betty Howell Tournament at Oakcrest High School.


The Wildcats defeated Absegami 12-2 to start the day as Jimenez struck out three to earn the win. She added four RBIs in the game.


Dainton went 2-for-2 with three runs and an RBI, while Veneziale added an RBI double. In the championship game, St. Joseph defeated Oakcrest 5-0. Veneziale threw a three-hit shutout, striking out 12 for the win.


At the plate, Dainton tripled and drove in a run and Bailey went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.


Earlier this week, St. Joe played at Egg Harbor Twp., but that game ended too late for this edition. On May 5, the Wildcats visit Ocean City at 4 p.m.