In a game that had only picked up in sixth inning, Francis Lewis senior outfielder Alina Cerda knew one thing for certain when she saw the game’s final out.
“I saw the pop-up go up, but I didn’t even look at the catcher,” said Cerda. “I just ran to the gates to open it for rest of our team because I knew we had it. I didn’t even check twice to see because I knew our third baseman, Bianca [Concepcion] had it.”
Concepcion caught the final out in Francis Lewis’ 4-2 victory over James Madison in the quarterfinals of the PSAL Class A softball playoffs Tuesday afternoon at the Bergen Beach Sports Complex in Brooklyn.
It was a victory that took a while to materialize, as neither team could muster much hitting throughout the first several innings.
James Madison (14-2) got on the board first when senior shortstop Gina Gerone doubled and scored on an outfield error in the top of the first inning.
The Patriots evened things up in the bottom of the second off a bases-loaded walk. Cerda was the runner on third and picked up the run for her team.
“I saw that if we were going to take the game, we would have to take pitches,” said Francis Lewis head coach Bryan Brown. “It was close throughout and we stayed patient. They got their first run on an error and we shored things up and said we couldn’t give them opportunities. We came back and got the run on the bases-loaded walk and it calmed us down.”
Francis Lewis took the lead in bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded as Madison catcher Samantha Rodriguez tried to pick off the runner at first. The ball sailed past first baseman Jennie Hosty, allowing freshman Selena Lallave to score from third.
Gerone made her second big play of the day by hitting an inside-the-park solo homer in the top of the sixth to even things out for the Lady Knights.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth that Francis Lewis began to make its big push, mainly behind steady hitting. Following a string of consecutive hits that saw Francis Lewis load the bases, senior Kiara Libreros advanced home when Cerda walked.
“I thought we did a great job at taking walks,” Brown said. “We didn’t get hits until the final inning when we were able to put some things together. It was just a matter of plugging away.”
On the next play, it was Selena Lallave’s walk that drove in Concepcion. By the top of the seventh with only one runner on and two outs, Concepcion made the catch on the fly ball that ended the ballgame.
Senior Francis Lewis pitcher Priscilla Lallave had a solid day pitching seven innings, with one earned run and five strikeouts.
“I thought she did a great job today,” said Brown. “She showed a lot of heart today and our outfield did the rest.”
Francis Lewis (13-3) is returning to the PSAL Class A semifinals game for the second year in a row and has high expectations this go-round. The sixth-seeded Patriots meet No. 2 Susan Wagner Thursday at 4 p.m. The Falcons defeated McKee/Staten Island Tech, 9-0, in another quarterfinal.
“It feels great because that’s what we wanted all along,” said Priscilla Lallave. “Last year we got there and we didn’t want to take a step back. We had everything to lose and very little to gain unless we got back to the semis to show that we are the same team from last season or even better.”
Brown was optimistic about the team's future and noted that returning to the semis was an important step for establishing a legacy for his team.
“It’s starting,” Brown said. “We’re finally getting to that point where we’re starting to build up a reputation. Hopefully we break the door down and get to the finals and then we can celebrate. Getting to the final four two years in a row gets in their heads that they can be something. We’re starting something good here at Francis Lewis.”
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