TOMS RIVER — There are many teams that would be thrilled with a Shore Conference Tournament championship, division title and a 30-1 record.  Not many teams are built the way the Donovan Catholic Griffins are. Last season the Griffins outscored the majority of their opponents by double digits, but ultimately fell one game shy of their perfect season.  This season they want to close out as state champions.
Last season, the Griffins faced Saint John Vianney in the South Jersey Non-Public A final and fell to the Lancers, 2-0, for their lone loss of the season. That day, the Griffins uncharacteristically only had three hits. Rather than take the season as a failure, Donovan bounced back four days later against the same Lancers squad and flipped the script, this time in the Shore Conference Tournament final, using a barrage of power in their seven-run first inning enroute to a 13-4 victory.
This season the Griffins return three first-team All-State players in junior infielder Karina Gaskins, and junior outfielders Jayda Kearney and Kayla Roncin. The trio – Gaskins (.602 BA, 45 runs scored, 65 RBI, 10 doubles, 18 HR), Kearney (.598 BA, 49 runs scored, 44 RBI, 12 HR) and Roncin (.549 BA, 49 runs scored, 36 RBI, 11 doubles) – were an opposing pitcher’s nightmare. They also return second-team All-State senior lefty pitching sensation Lindsay Nelson, who led all pitchers in New Jersey with 22 wins.  
Donovan Catholic enters the season as the top team in the Shore Conference as well as the number one team in the state. This is a high praise for the small private school from Toms River, but one that they have truly earned. With the majority of their starting lineup from a year ago still intact, the Griffins will look to defend their Shore Conference Tournament title as well as look to capture the elusive NJSIAA Non-Public A title.
“For us seniors we have come a long way and came up short the past couple of years, our biggest goal is to win it all and time to take it home,” said Nelson when asked about their goals for this season.
A lot of what makes Donovan Catholic tick is the leadership and drive they get from head coach Debbie Schwartz. Schwartz came over from a powerhouse in Toms River East and brought her same drive and love for the game and her players to Donovan Catholic, which can be seen in the toughness and passion with which the Griffins have played the past several years. This senior class entered with limited numbers as freshmen and has now built a powerhouse for years to come.  
“Playing for Coach has been great, she sets the tone for us and there is no let down,” added Gaskins. “She is a big part of us all coming together as a family and the main reason we all gel so well together and have built a sisterhood.” 
Adding to the depth of an already powerful lineup, Donovan Catholic welcomed back Tori Federico who missed all of last season due to surgery for a torn labrum.  The junior wasted no time getting back into the swing of things when she stepped to the plate in the second inning of the season opener and crushed a grand slam to dead center field, as the Griffins jumped on Jackson Liberty for 10 runs in the inning enroute to a 17-7 victory. 
Roncin belted three hits, including the 100th of her career and Kearney added four hits of her own, the last one giving her 100 for her career. Reigning 2018 NJSIAA Player of The Year Gaskins finished opening day with four hits, a solo home run and four RBI.
Two days later, the Griffins traveled to Point Pleasant Borough to take on the Panthers and the onslaught continued. Federico once again powered the offense, this time in the first inning with another grand slam on the young season. Donovan Catholic erupted for 10 runs in the first inning and defeated the Panthers in four innings, 19-1.  Roncin added three more hits, including two doubles, with three runs batted in. Nelson pitched three innings for the win, striking out four and allowing no runs on one hit.
Donovan Catholic is participating in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Tournament.  All of the top five teams in the preseason Top 20 will be competing, as well as nine of the top 11 teams in those rankings, with the potential for some big semifinal matchups between the top two teams and the third- and fourth-seeded teams in their respective groups.
Donovan Catholic’s schedule this year has some big names on it which will help them prepare for the postseason tournaments. In addition to the NFCA Tournament where the Griffins play Lodi Immaculate and then possibly Saint John Vianney, they will face Rancocas Valley, Northern Burlington, Calvary Christian and Mount Saint Dominic this month.