There was a stunned feeling, and for good reason.
Gloucester Catholic, despite mounting a comeback, lost to St. John Vianney, 3-2, Tuesday in the South Jersey Non-Public A baseball championship game at Rowan University.
This was the first time that the Gloucester Catholic seniors had lost an NJSIAA playoff game.
The Rams had won four consecutive state championships, two in Non-Public B and the last two in Non-Public A.
So even though Gloucester Catholic went 26-6 and was again among the best teams in South Jersey, just reaching a title game wasn't satisfying enough.
"We set the bar so high, and when we fall short, it is really tough," said second-year coach Mike Rucci, who also starred as a catcher in high school for the Rams.
That bar is set high for a reason. Since NJSIAA state finals began in 1971, Gloucester Catholic has won more titles, 17, than any other team in New Jersey.
So there was nothing at this point that could console the players, although senior shortstop Phil Dickinson took a measured and mature approach when talking about the defeat.
"Sometimes you have to tip your cap to them, and their pitcher did a great job," Dickinson said.
Vianney lefthander Justin Chin wasn't overpowering but still was highly effective in going the distance. He struck out just two, but allowed his defense to do the work, and led by a vacuum cleaner at shortstop, Chris Morris, the Lancers made several strong defensive plays.
"I knew I had to throw strikes, and the defense was great, especially Chris Morris getting to every ball," Chin said.
Chin is 9-0 and is a recruit of NJIT, yet he wasn't the headliner on the mound. That was Rams junior righthander John Murphy, somebody known for his big-game performances.
Murphy beat Don Bosco Prep, 4-1, as a freshman in the state final and defeated St. Augustine, 7-0, in last year's South Jersey Non-Public A championship. He already has committed to Maryland.
"Today showed we have to get better, and we'll use this as motivation for next year," Murphy said.
Vianney (19-7) scored two unearned runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Anthony Santoro and Chris Loney.
Gloucester Catholic fought back, getting one in the sixth on doubles by Dickinson and Sean Breen.
Down by 2-1, Tyler Mondile crushed a triple that just missed being a home run to right-center with one out in the Rams' seventh. He scored on Fran Kinsey's groundout.
The Lancers won it in the bottom of the seventh when Santoro's one-out single just got through the Rams infield into right field for the game-winning hit.
"This is what you dream about," Santoro said.
Murphy was bothered by calf cramps in the inning, but immediately dismissed it as a factor.
"No excuses," he said. "I have to make a better pitch."
Sometimes even the great pitchers don't pitch it where they want it. The Rams showed resiliency for their late comeback, but so did the Lancers.
Gloucester Catholic 000 001 1 - 2 5 3
St. John Vianney 000 020 1 - 3 7 1
WP: Justin Chin. LP: John Murphy. 3B: G-Tyler Mondile. 2B: SJ-John Rotelli, G-Phil Dickinson, Sean Breen.