By Joseph Staszewski
Francis Lewis walked its way back to the semifinals last week, but was stopped by Susan Wagner following a Madison upset.
The sixth-ranked Patriots extended their season by drawing 11 walks over No. 3 James Madison, three with the bases loaded, in a 4-2 win in the PSAL Class A softball quarterfinals May 22 at Bergen Beach in Brooklyn. It was Lewis’ second straight trip to the final four and its second win over Madison, the city runner-up a year ago, this season.
The Fresh Meadows school, not known for being an offensive juggernaut, faced Susan Wagner on May 24 and fell 11-1 to the second-seeded Falcons’, who advanced to the finals for the first time since 1989. The Patriots, however, showed resilience and patience until the end.
“I thought we did a great job taking walks,” Lewis Coach Bryan Brown said. “We didn’t get hits, we got hits in the final innings. We kept plugging away.”
Against Madison, the Patriots didn’t get a hit until Kiara Libreros, Bianca Concepcion and Samantha Stelloh strung together three straight to start the top of the seventh inning. Cerda and Samantha Lallave both drew two-out walks to give their team a 4-2 lead. Madison attempted to rally in the seventh after Jennie Hosty singled and Danielle Mulle fouled off numerous pitches to work a walk, putting runners on first and second. Priscilla Lallave, who struck out five, proceeded to get the final three outs, ending with a pop-up that hung in the air before settling into Concepcion’s glove at third.
“I saw the popup go and I didn’t even look at her catch it,” said Cerda, the designated player. “I just ran to the gate and I was like, ‘I know we got this.”
Madison (16-2) got a run in the first inning when Gina Gerone doubled and scored on an error. Lewis (16-3) evened the score in the top of the second with three one-out walks against Knights starter Cheyenne Tatesure. Neleini Esmeral’s two-out walk put the Pats up 2-1. Lewis took a one-run lead in the sixth when Madison catcher Samantha Rodriguez threw down to first with the bases loaded to try to pick off Taylor Stanton. Hosty got tangled making the tag and Selina Lallave score from third.
“A lot of people doubted us, like our team — it wasn’t the strongest,” Priscilla Lallave said. “Everyone was like they made it to the top four, they’re not making it again.”
Knights Coach Brian Friedman, in his first year at the helm, was pleased with the season his team had after losing ace Kayla Hill to graduation. The windmiller led Madison, which won their division, to three straight championship game appearances and a city title two year ago. Gerone tried to spark her team back against Lewis. Two pitches after a questionable ball call, the star shortstop drilled a solo home run into left center to tie the score at 2 in the sixth.
“They have a lot to be proud of,” Friedman said of his players. “It’s tough if you give them gifts like that. Not to take anything away from [Lewis]. They did what they had to do.”
When the season began, Brown called his club the forgotten team of the semifinalists from a year ago. Lewis had a rocky regular season, finishing tied for second with Bayside in Queen A-I. Through all that, it’s the Patriots who are again playing for a chance to compete for a city title.
“Hopefully, we break the door down and get to the finals now,” Brown said. “This is building something for us.”