ALLENTOWN, N.J - A Non-Public South Jersey A championship softball game that started with a scintillating defensive play by Gloucester Catholic ended with an umpire's call that left the Rams dejected yesterday at the Byron Johnson Recreational Center.
With the score tied and one out and two on base in the bottom of the eighth, Bishop Ahr's Jill Popek stroked a ball to short right field.
Gloucester Catholic rightfielder Mary Kate Lally threw the ball to catcher Colleen O'Donnell, who tagged Laura Sharlow at home plate.
However, the umpire ruled that O'Donnell didn't have control of the ball, and the run scored to give the Trojans a 2-1 victory and their third sectional title in program history.
"It came down to a play, and the umpire made a call," said O'Donnell, a junior who drove in the Rams' only run. "They played a great game.
"In my opinion, I had the ball, but it was the umpire's opinion [that counts]. It's sad for the seniors who can't come back. But we'll come back stronger next year."
Gloucester Catholic (20-9), the fifth seed, was going for its 13th South Jersey crown since 1983, when it won as a Non-Public B team.
Ahr (24-2), the second seed, won its first sectional trophy since 2000, when its coach, Missy Magyar, was a junior playing shortstop for the Trojans.
"That's a hard way to lose a game, on a play like that," said Magyar, in her first year at the helm. "They played such good defense, and we played great defense, and it was going to end on a close play, and fortunately we were on the right end of it."
The Trojans, who shut out Holy Spirit, 13-0, and Camden Catholic, 2-0, to advance to the final, demonstrated that they could get their bats on the ball one through nine.
They pounded six hits, including three doubles and a homer.
Rams junior pitcher Nicole Hagerty (16-7) found herself in a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. However, Olivia Lawrence, Shayla Giosa and Christina Matranga pulled off a triple play to end the inning and spark the team.
Hagerty scored Gloucester Catholic's lone run in the fourth when O'Donnell slammed a two-out double to center field.
But Ahr rebounded in the bottom of the inning when sophomore hurler Jessica Gomez (11-1) blasted a home run over the center-field fence to tie the score, 1-1.
O'Donnell got the Rams' second and last hit of the day, a one-out single in the seventh. However, Gomez struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
"Colleen all year has done a tremendous job behind the plate defensively and with her bat, too," Gloucester Catholic coach Joe Matranga said. "She's come up clutch a number of times.
"She has a tremendous attitude, too."
Matranga and Hagerty both bemoaned the fact that such a competitive game had come down to one play that didn't go their way.
"This is very difficult. It shouldn't have been a loss," Hagerty said.
Gloucester Catholic 000 100 00 - 1 2 2
Bishop Ahr 000 100 01 - 2 6 1
WP: Jessica Gomez. LP: Nicole Hagerty
HR: BA-Gomez. 2B: GC-Colleen O'Donnell. BA-Mel Gallena, Laura Sharlow, Amanda Granados.