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Phil Anastasia: Williamstown completes the sweep

TOMS RIVER - Most of the Williamstown softball team was sitting under a tree, waiting to take the field, when an assistant coach hung up a cell phone and delivered the news.

TOMS RIVER - Most of the Williamstown softball team was sitting under a tree, waiting to take the field, when an assistant coach hung up a cell phone and delivered the news.

Kingsway won. Sterling won. Pennsville won.

South Jersey was 3 for 3, and Williamstown was batting cleanup.

"Once we heard that, we wanted to jump right on that bandwagon," Williamstown senior pitcher Rachael Matreale said. "We wanted to keep it going."

Williamstown completed a South Jersey sweep of public-school championships, beating Ridgewood, 2-0, to take the Group 4 crown yesterday at Toms River North.

"Girls Rule," could be the headline over the baseball/softball recap of South Jersey's work during the spring tournament season.

For the first time since the start of the tournament in 1971, South Jersey didn't have a team in the state baseball finals.

But for just the second time since the start of the softball tournament in 1976, South Jersey won all four public state titles, as Kingsway (Group 3), Sterling (Group 2) and Pennsville (Group 1) joined Williamstown on the top of the medal stand.

"We talked to the girls about it before the game," Williamstown coach Fred Powell said. "We were like, 'They all won, and we beat all those teams.' We need to finish it off and win today to show we're the best team."

South Jersey also won all four public-school softball championships in 2001, as Cherokee (Group 4), Cumberland (Group 3), Haddon Heights (Group 2) and Gloucester (Group 1) won titles. Gloucester Catholic (Non-Public B) also won a state title that season.

But this year was special. Consider: Kingsway and Sterling didn't even win conference titles, but were strong enough to capture state crowns.

"And how about the Tri-County Conference?" Powell said. "Three state champions in us, Kingsway and Pennsville."

Williamstown took the field at the end of a long, hot day.

The South Jersey softball dominance began as Pennsville's on-a-mission seniors pounded out a 9-2 victory over High Tech at Toms River North. Meanwhile, a couple of miles down Route 37 at Toms River East, Sterling rode the crafty pitching of senior Sammi Giambri to a 1-0 victory over Kittatinny.

The Silver Knights, whose seven seniors were fresh off cutting a rug at Friday night's prom, celebrated by dumping a water bucket on first-year coach Kelly Tarrant.

"They hit me in the head with it," Tarrant said with a smile. "They're not very good at it."

Next at Toms River East, Kingsway used clutch pitching by senior Jamie Minix and some daring baserunning to score a thrilling, 2-1 victory over JFK-Iselin.

Meanwhile, back at Toms River North, Williamstown was forced to wait - and wait - while Mater Dei and Montclair Kimberley battled through an endless Non-Public B championship.

"Won't this game ever end?" Matreale yelled as the Braves milled around the fence behind right field, seeking shade from the scorching sun.

It was after 4 p.m. - more than an hour behind schedule - by the time Matreale fired the first pitch. It was a strike, naturally.

By the end of the sweltering day, Matreale had another shutout, her fifth in five tournament games. Williamstown had its first softball state title.

And South Jersey was 4 for 4, a perfect softball performance.

"Before the game, we knew the other three South Jersey teams had won," Williamstown senior shortstop Christen Glutz said. "It's great for South Jersey. But we beat all those teams in the regular season, so we wanted to win this game to show everybody that we were still the best."