Three Cape-Atlantic League high school softball teams will try today to earn spots in Saturday's state finals.
One of them is guaranteed to make it.
Two local teams - St. Joseph of Hammonton (19-5) and Sacred Heart of Vineland (30-3) - will meet at 4 p.m. for the South Jersey Non-Public B title at Buena Regional.
Meanwhile, Buena (26-4) will face Robbinsville at 4 p.m. in a state Group II semifinal at Northern Burlington High School.
Sacred Heart is ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11. Buena is No. 9. St. Joe is unranked but is the top seed in S.J. Non-Public B. Sacred Heart is seeded third.
Sacred Heart is the defending state Non-Public B champion. The Lions beat St. Joe in the 2011 and 2012 semifinals.
Sacred Heart and St. Joseph used to play twice during the regular season until the teams moved into different Cape-Atlantic League conferences last year.
"Looking at the brackets when they first came out, we thought we'd (see) St. Joe," Sacred Heart coach Les Olson said. "There's a history there with Sacred Heart and St. Joe. Our girls are excited about being in the final."
This is an emotional time for the Lions. The Camden Diocese will close Sacred Heart at the end of the school year because of low enrollment. The Lions are trying to win the school one last state championship.
St. Joe relies on sophomore pitcher Dominique D'Andrea, who is also one of the region's top hitters.
Sacred Heat rallied to beat Mater Dei 5-4 in the semifinals last Friday. Kaila Smith and Lauren Dwyer each knocked in two runs with two-out singles.
Buena beat West Deptford 7-4 last Friday to win a South Jersey title for the first time since 1990. The Chiefs have never won a state title.
Buena is a veteran team with seniors in key spots, such as catcher Ashley Surran, shortstop Janessa Rios and first baseman Natalie Giannascoli. Buena lost in the S.J. final in 2011 and 2012.
"Our seniors have been leaders and pulled the load together," Buena coach Pam Pickett said. "That's what made them unique. These girls have been in many state games. They understand the importance of playing good ball and staying focused."
Robbinsville features pitcher Lauren Fischer, who threw a no-hitter as the Ravens beat Raritan 1-0 to win the Central Jersey Group II title on Friday.
Robbinsville is trying to reach the state final for the third straight year. The Ravens beat Pequannock 2-1 to win the title in 2011 but lost to Pequannock 3-0 in last year's title game.
Pickett said the Chiefs plan to be aggressive at the plate.
"We're coming to the game to take our cuts," she said. "We know (Fischer) throws well. She's got to stay around the strike zone. We're going to hopefully take quality swings. You don't want to stand around waiting for something to happen."
The state finals will be played in Toms River. The location and times of the games will be announced later this week.
Contact Michael McGarry:
State group II semifinal
Who: Buena Regional (26-4) vs. Robbinsville (24-2)
When/where: 4 p.m. today at Northern Burlington High School in Columbus
What's next: Winner advances to Saturday's state final against the winner of today's other semifinal between Mahwah (21-9) and Hanover Park (20-6).
South Jersey Non-Public B final
Who: Sacred Heart (30-3) vs. St. Joseph (19-5)
When/where: 4 p.m. today at Buena Regional
What's next: Winner advances to Saturday's state final against the winner of today's North Jersey Non-Public B title game between Lodi Immaculate (27-2) and Newark Academy (22-7).