TOMS RIVER, N.J. - The analysis was simple and right to the point. St. Joseph softball coach Candi Dean explained how the Wildcats fell just short of earning their first state title.

Leading by 2-0 after one inning, St. Joseph missed several opportunities to build on that margin and fell, 3-2 in eight innings to Montclair Kimberly in yesterday's state Non-Public B championship at Toms River North.

"We didn't get the big hits, and I guess it just wasn't our day," said Dean, whose 21-5 team is ranked third in South Jersey by The Inquirer.

The 19-8 Cougars, who beat St. Joseph in the 2007 final, won their fifth state title in the last six years and eighth overall since 1999.

Three of those titles were won by yesterday's pitcher, senior righthander Molly Herforth. In her career, Herforth had a 15-1 postseason record.

She wasn't overpowering yesterday but adeptly changed speeds with an effective change-up.

"I knew they were a really good hitting team and I had to use the change-up more than usual to keep them off balance," said Herforth, who will attend Stevens Institute of Technology.

St. Joseph scored two unearned run in the first inning, but couldn't get more despite having runners on first and third with one out. That would set a tone for the rest of the game.

The Cougars tied the score in the second on a bases-loaded walk and an RBI infield single by Tess Meyer.

In the seventh, St. Joe's Danielle Fratanduono led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch, but was ruled out at third for runner's interference when she ran into shortstop Laura Placentra on a ground ball hit by Arianna Donzuso.

Montclair Kimberly broke the tie with an unearned run in the top of the eighth. With Ashley Bishop on second and two outs, the Cougars' Devon Keefe beat out an infield single. Keefe would have beaten the errant throw, which went past first base, sending Bishop home.

This was the final game for St. Joseph righthander Nicole Pagano, who pitched well, striking out eight and walking three.

Pagano is headed to Mount St. Mary's after one of the great careers in the history of the Hammonton school.

"It's disappointing to lose, but it's been a great four years," Pagano said. "I will miss everybody a lot."

Montclair Kimberly 020 000 01 - 3 6 3

St. Joseph 200 000 00 - 2 6 1

WP: Molly Herforth. LP: Nicole Pagano. 2B: S-Morgan Earling.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.