Tottenville pitcher Cheryl Lopez was starting to find a good rhythm when Mother Nature put a halt to the PSAL Class A championship game Wednesday.
The final was suspended due to darkness with the Pirates taking a 3-1 lead into the top of the fifth inning. Lopez and her teammates had to shed any disappointment they had for not finishing the game, get a good night's rest and come back to St. John’s Thursday to seal another championship.
“I think we would have been fine either way, but I much rather would have played it yesterday,” Lopez said. ”By the time they cut it off, that’s when we were in a groove. I think that inning we started hitting well.”
The crucial third inning rally was ignited by Lopez, who belted a three-run home run Wednesday and her right arm finished off the Falcons bats in only 24 minutes Thursday at St. John’s University to give Tottenville a 3-1 win and its eighth PSAL title in nine years.
Lopez got stronger as the game progressed Wednesday night and for the restart at 2:56 p.m. The junior allowed an earned run on just three hits in seven innings. She limited one batter from Wagner to reach on base in the final three innings that was completed by 3:20 p.m.
“I definitely wanted to carry it [momentum] over,” Lopez said. “The lead gave us a confidence boost. We had the opportunity to win and the advantage made the difference.”
Pirates coach Cathy Morano saw a determined resolve from Tottenville (21-0), ranked No. 1 in New York City by MSG Varsity, to finish what they had started. Despite traveling back and forth from Huguenot to Queens, the Pirates earned another title in an all-Staten Island battle that took two days, but finished in a manageable 76 minutes.
“We started hitting the ball real when they suspended the game. It was what it was,” Morano said. “You didn’t want to get uptight about it and didn’t want to convey that over to the kids because you want them to come back and keep doing what they are doing.”
Wagner, which lost to the Pirates twice in the regular season, got to Lopez in the top of the second and led 1-0 on Jeri Gennaro’s two-out single to center that scored Dayna Williams.
Tottenville then responded in the bottom half of the inning against Wagner senior right-hander Taylor Sarcone.
Leadoff hitter Jen Palase reached on a fielding error by Williams. Nicole Bellini followed with a single, bringing Lopez to the plate. The No. 3-hitter waited for a 0-1 fastball from Sarcone and hit a deep shot to left-center field which Lopez wasn’t sure would fly over the wall.
To the surprise of the Pirates pitcher, the ball did land over the fence for a three-run blast to put Tottenville up for good at 3-1.
“That was key. She doesn’t crack under pressure,” Morano said. “She is a true leader on this team because she picks people up. She does it in a quiet way, and sometimes in a loud way with that shot yesterday. “
Sarcone didn’t make many mistakes outside of the home run, limiting a tough Pirates offense to just six hits. Wagner (18-3), ranked No. 3 in New York City by MSG Varsity, just couldn’t find a way to put more runs on the board.
Gennaro and Jamie Lee Sanfilippo were both stranded in the top of the third inning as Lopez induced an inning-ending groundout by Julianna Rosetti and the Falcons got the leadoff hitter on base in the top of the sixth inning, but couldn’t push a runner across the plate.
“In a playoff game, if you hold a team to three runs, you should be on the better side of the game,” said Wagner coach Marco Altieri. “But we just scored one. They played as hard as they could and they left it out on the field.”
Palase, the four-year varsity starting catcher, couldn’t contain her emotion as she celebrated a third city title. The lone defeat came to Madison in 2010.
“It feels great, it’s a feeling you can’t describe,” Palase said. “Going out and losing two years ago, and winning and to win it again is a great feeling. It was the speeches from our coaches that we really had the momentum going in today. They just said to keep our heads up and forget about everything that happened and play our game.”