GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The St. Joseph and Absegami high school softball teams are both young, but beyond that the two teams don't have a lot of similarities.
St. Joseph, all non-seniors, returned many varsity letter winners and a strong lineup this spring. Absegami, which lost seven starters to graduation, is rebuilding.
St. Joseph sophomore Dominique D'Andrea pitched a two-hitter in a five-inning 18-3 victory over host Absegami on Tuesday. D'Andrea also had the game's big hit, a grand slam in the third inning that broke open the game at 8-1. The game ended on the 10-run rule.
Sophomore third baseman Mikaela Power, a returning starter, went 5-for-5 with a three-run homer, two runs and six RBIs.
The Cape-Atlantic League American Conference inter-division game was the season opener for both teams.
"We had a really good preseason, and everybody was really excited about the first game," said St. Joseph coach Candi Dean. "This is the best we've looked so far."
The Wildcats pounded out 19 hits, including three apiece by D'Andrea, catcher Carly Testa and first baseman Alivia Kerr.
"We're pretty aggressive, and always looking to get extra bases to put runs on the board," Dean said.
The Wildcats scored two runs in the first inning off Absegami freshman pitcher Bobbi Beck, a left-hander. Testa led off with a double, and scored on Emily DeMarco's single to right center field. Power doubled in DeMarco with the second run.
St. Joe loaded the bases in the second inning and DeMarco singled to left to make it 3-0. Absegami got on the board in the bottom of the inning and Julia Pietropola scored on a bunt groundout by Jenna King.
But the game didn't settle down. The Wildcats loaded the bases in the third, and Cara Owsley's RBI groundout upped the lead to 4-1. A walk to Testa loaded the bases again, and D'Andrea belted a grand slam to right center field. The Wildcats added another run in the inning on Power's RBI single, and it was 9-1.
D'Andrea pitched and batted as a freshman last year, but missed half the season with a back injury. She had four home runs last year, including one in her first varsity at bat.
"I was really excited to be playing after being injured last year," said D'Andrea, 16, a Waterford Township resident. "I feel really good now. I'm really confident with the team we have."
Absegami was 19-7 last year, led by now-graduated senior pitcher Kelly Lupton. Lupton pitches for the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and is currently 3-1 with one save.
Pietropola and Becca Maguire are Absegami's two seniors. Besides pitcher Beck, the Braves also started freshmen center fielder Sarah Pietropola, Julia's sister, and third baseman Tiffany Bell.
Maguire doubled in a run for Absegami in the third inning, The home team scored on an error in the fifth.
"We didn't win any games in the preseason, so I hope we get one sooner or later," said Absegami coach Pat Esemplare. "The grand slam was the turning point. I saw our kids' heads go down. St. Joseph hit the ball hard, so what are you going to do?"
Contact Guy Gargan:
St. Joseph 216 54-18 19 2
Absegami 011 01- 3 2 3
2B-Testa, DeMarco, Kerr, Power SJ; Maguire A. HR-D'Andrea, Power SJ.
WP-D'Andrea (1-0) 8K. LP-Beck (0-1) 4K.
Records-S.J. 1-0, Absegami 0-1.