The Gloucester Catholic softball team has been knocking on the door of a sectional championship for most of Colleen O'Donnell's time at the school.
Tuesday, the senior catcher made sure the Rams burst into the state finals.
O'Donnell drove in seven runs with three hits, including a grand slam, in powering Gloucester Catholic to a 13-2 victory over Sacred Heart in the South Jersey Non-Public B championship game at Sterling.
"It feels amazing to do this as a senior," O'Donnell said after the game was stopped after five innings because of the 10-run rule. "It seems like we've come close in the past few years but couldn't make it. To finally do it in my senior year, it's the greatest feeling."
Junior shortstop Shayla Giosia was 3 for 4 with three RBIs, and senior infielders Christina Matranga and Brianna Rodriguez each had two hits and scored two runs for second-seeded Gloucester Catholic (23-6).
The Rams also received a strong performance from senior pitcher Nicole Hagerty, who allowed just four hits, en route to their 12th sectional title since the NJSIAA began the Non-Public tournament in 1982.
Gloucester Catholic will face North Jersey champion Immaculate Conception of Lodi in Saturday's state finals in Toms River.
"I'm happy for the girls," said second-year Gloucester Catholic coach Joe Matranga, Christina's father. "They are the ones who did the work to make this happen."
Clarissa Hayes had an RBI single for top-seeded Sacred Heart (28-3), which lost in the sectional final for the second year in a row.
"We ran into a team that was on top of its game," Sacred Heart coach Les Olson said. "This loss is going to hurt for a while, but I told our girls they have much to be proud of. They set a school record for wins, and it's hard to imagine that being eclipsed. They can come back and see that in the gym and say, 'That was my team.' "
Gloucester Catholic started quickly as Giosia slapped the second pitch of the game to center field for a single. She came around to score on O'Donnell's single.
In the second inning, Rodriguez and Giosia had RBI singles before the Rams loaded the bases for O'Donnell. The righthanded hitter drove a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a grand slam and a 7-2 lead.
"I really don't think so," O'Donnell said when asked if she had hit a grand slam before Tuesday. "Definitely not in a big game like this."
The Rams added two runs in the fourth on sacrifice flies by O'Donnell and Olivia Lawrence, then added four in the fifth. Giosia had a two-run single in that inning, and O'Donnell drove in the final run with a single.
"I don't think there were any easy outs in that lineup," Olson said after Gloucester Catholic rapped 12 hits.
The first four Sacred Heart batters reached base against Hagerty. But the righthander escaped major damage with two key strikeouts, then settled down to pitch four scoreless innings.
"Nicole knows how to bear down," Joe Matranga said. "She's experienced out there."
Gloucester Catholic 160 24 - 13 12 0
Sacred Heart 200 00 - 2 4 3
WP: Nicole Hagerty. LP: Kylie Kristovich. 2B: GC-Olivia Lawrence. HR: GC-Colleen O'Donnell.