A pair of talented senior stud players put on a classic showdown in the top of the seventh inning of the North Non-Public A softball championship game at Ivy Hill Park on June 4.
Immaculate Heart Academy pitcher Steph Thomas (AKA Affirmed) and Mount St. Dominic Academy’s Olivia Gemma (Forego) had a battle for the ages. To set the stage, IHA led, 1-0, in the top of the seventh inning and were within two outs of advancing to a fourth straight Non-Public A championship game in Toms River.
The Lions of MSDA had been held to two hits by Thomas through six innings, but in the seventh, Kelsey Oh led off with a single and a fielding error put a pair of Lions on base. Eventually, a MSDA base runner was out at the plate on a close play. With a runner still in scoring position, Gemma stepped to the plate.
She would foul off numerous pitches from Thomas, and eventually worked the count to 3-2 before lining a clean single that tied the game at one. Later, a clutch double by another Lions senior, Sam Platt, drove home Gemma with what proved to be the game-winning run as Mount St. Dominic held off an IHA rally in the bottom of the seventh to win, 2-1.
Gemma’s final game at Ivy Hill Park figures to be one she’ll never forget. For that matter, she had four tremendous games there in recent vintage. In the 2013 Essex County Tournament semifinal, she hit a monumental homer to lift MSDA past Cedar Grove. The following night, she pitched well and was a stud at the plate in a close loss to Livingston. In the 2014 ECT final, her big hit in the first inning had the Lions off and running en route to a dominating win over Cedar Grove. And then, last night, in what would very well could have been her final high school at-bat, she got a huge hit against the state’s winningest pitcher.
Mount St. Dominic’s win marks the first time a team from Essex County has advanced to play in a state final at Toms River since Nutley did it in 2010. The Lions will seek its first-ever Non-Public A championship when it plays Saturday against Immaculata, in a 2:30 p.m. start at Toms River East. The last time a team from Essex won a state title was in 2009, when Montclair Kimberley captured the Non-Public B crown.
Gemma, Platt and Thomas will all play softball on the next level, with Gemma attending Stevens Institute, Platt, The College of New Jersey and Thomas, Lafayette College.
Gemma and Platt will have one more game while Thomas’ career ends with numbers that are nothing short of mind-boggling.
Most importantly, all three players have represented their schools with class and grace during an outstanding four years of high school.