WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — The hype was palpable. Of course it was.
The John Jay-East Fishkill High School softball team might have won the Class AA state title last year, but the Patriots didn’t win the Wappingers Falls Central School District championship. Two of Jay’s three losses in 2011 were to arch-rival Roy C. Ketcham, which made the first meeting of the season between the No. 1 team in the state and the No. 8 team a big deal on both sides.
And this time, John Jay was ready.
Using a bit of controlled chaos that caused several physical and mental errors by RCK, some timely hitting and a standout relief performance from Vicky Lattanzio, the top-ranked Patriots rolled to a 9-4 victory over the Indians on Wednesday.
The defending champs are now 4-0 overall while the Indians lost their first game in five tries.
Though John Jay rolled to a state crown, the Patriots still had a long memory when it came to playing RCK.
“This was extremely important,” Lattanzio said.
“This was our biggest game of the season, to come here, to Ketcham, to win,” said Jay catcher Nicole DeCosta.
The Patriots set the tone early, taking a 2-0 lead after only two batters. Nadia Kemp led off with a single and continued to second on an error by RCK’s centerfielder. Gabby Bracchi then dropped down a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed, allowing Kemp to score, and Bracchi came all the way in on the same play on consecutive errant throws.
“They capitalized,” Ketcham coach Melissa Zehr said. “Today they were the better team. They took advantage of some things we were doing, or not doing, on the field. Defense was the contributing factor.”
An inning later, it was 3-0 when Lattanzio walked, moved to third on a one-out error, and then scampered home when DeCosta dropped down a bunt single.
“The more chaos you can create, the better off your team will perform,” Jay coach Bonnie Schilling said. “You always want to strike first before the other pitcher has a chance to settle in, and Casey is a formidable pitcher.”
Casey is Ketcham right-hander Casey Herzog, who beat the Patriots twice last year. But it appeared that Jay caught up to her this season – at least in this game – rapping 11 hits, including RBI doubles by Amanda Gisonni and Megan Theiller that made it 5-0 in the third inning. In fact, the hardest-hit ball might have been an out -- DeCosta’s vicious line drive that was caught by Indians’ shortstop Marlene Cuevas, who had a marvelous defensive game.
But Ketcham also caught up to Gisonni, who allowed two hard-hit doubles and two singles in the bottom of the third as Ketcham scored three times with two outs to cut the deficit to 5-3, with RBIs coming from Andrea Bombace, Herzog and Kristen Chauvin.
The left-handed Lattanzio relieved Gisonni and got the last out of the third inning, was touched for an unearned run in the fourth inning, and then set down the last 10 Ketcham batters of the game.
“Vicky is an amazing pitcher. I have two state-caliber pitchers on my team,” Jay coach Bonnie Schilling said. “I’m fortunate to have two of those well-rounded pitchers with many different types of pitchers. Vicky did an amazing job coming in cold.”
“I just took it batter by batter,” Lattanzio said. “Nicole called some great pitches. It was a team effort. I had the defense behind me.”
Andrea Varvara clubbed a long home run over the fence in left field in the top of the seventh to complete the scoring for John Jay.