The Wildwood Catholic High School softball team made history this week.
The Crusaders clinched the first conference championship in program history when they topped Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 11-3, on Thursday to win the CAL United Conference title. Then on Friday, they wrapped up an unbeaten conference season with an 11-4 victory over St. Joseph.
“This is huge for us,” Wildwood Catholic coach Matt Megines said. “No. 1, it’s great for the school. Four years ago when we came in one of the main goals was to try to turn the program around, so for us to get something like this in four years is just great.”
Casey Manera, Wildwood Catholic’s lone senior, slugged a pair of home runs and drove in six runs overall to lead the team against OLMA. She finished the game 3 for 4. One of her home runs was a three-run shot, the other a solo blast.
Sophomores Mercedes Rivera and Jayla Jamison each collected three hits and combined for five runs scored. Pitcher Emily Cimino allowed just one earned run and struck out nine.
Against St. Joseph, Taylor Williams went 3 for 4 with two RBI and Jamison doubled and tripled.
Wildwood Catholic exited Friday’s game with the Wildcats at 15-5 overall, 12-0 in the conference.
“We have a great group of girls and they’ve bought into the program,” Megines said. “They fight every inning, every pitch, and they’re like a little family that sticks together.”
It isn’t easy to win conference championships in the spring at a small school like Wildwood Catholic. There are many distractions, such as Easter break, prom and the start of summer jobs. The Crusaders have made it work.
“For a lot of them, their goals are to go play college softball,” Megines said. “We preach that either you’re in or you’re out. One of my favorite quotes is from (ESPN football analyst) Herman Edwards, which is, ‘Are you interested, or are you dedicated?’ Our girls are dedicated.
“We’re a small school and we have a lot of different things going on. But there are times we can let the girls slide a little and do those things because ultimately you want the kids to have fun. But during softball season they do all realize that softball comes first. They want to be all in with their sisters and play ball.”
Wildwood Catholic’s regular season is complete. The Crusaders are set to begin state tournament play next Thursday. They’re the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Non-Public B Tournament and have earned a first-round bye. They’ll play Thursday at home against the winner of a game between No. 7 Immaculata and No. 10 St. Joseph.
Last season, Wildwood Catholic advanced to its first-ever appearance in a South Jersey title game but came up short.
“We set four goals before the season, which was to win the conference, be the No. 1 seed, win South Jersey and win the state,” Megines said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the No. 1 seed but we’re still looking at getting three out of four and that would be great. The girls have had competing for a South Jersey title and a state title on their minds since we started in March.”