By Joseph Staszewski
St. Francis Prep’s softball celebration didn’t stop on the field at Cunningham Park.
First, the Terriers mobbed Briana Emanuele at first base following her game-winning, two-out single. That hit in the bottom of the seventh inning completed a wild 3-2 comeback win over visiting Mary Louis in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens ‘AA’ semifinals May 14.
Next they all waited for her to walk down the blacktop path to the sidewalk near the park house and bowed down in unison.
“When she hit it, I was thinking step on home and go tackle her,” shortstop Danielle Cervasio said.
Emanuele said she didn’t know it was the game winner until she was mobbed by her teammates near first. It was her first walk-off hit in a Terriers uniform. A Jessica Menna single and a Cervasio RBI double gave her the feeling she and her team were in for a special inning. It’s a hit Emanuele said she will have etched in her memory.
“A long time,” she said. “Forever.”
None of that would have been possible without Menna. Mary Louis (7-6), ranked No. 9 in the city by the New York Post, retook the lead in the top of the seventh when Brittany Nicoll blooped an RBI single over third base to drive in Julie Canova to make it 2-1. TMLA ace Nicole Hubert had St. Francis Prep and the slumping nine-hitter Menna down to their final strike with the bases empty.
Terriers Coach Anna Marie Rich had been telling her all season that her bat was going to be there when her team needed it most. It was all she could think about in the batter’s box.
“Today was needed and it came up,” Menna said. “There’s no words.”
Her single to right center got the comeback rolling. Cervasio lined a double just out of the reach of Kim Myers in right to score pinch runner Jaclyn Russo all the way from first. Tara O’Rourke dunked an infield single near the circle and Mary Louis walked freshman Kelly Licul to load the bases before Emanuele delivered.
SFP’s wins over Mary Louis this season were not without drama. It won in nine innings and 2-1 during the regular season.
“I was like a little kid at heart here,” said Rich, who immediately went to hug assistant Coach Al Weinman. “I can’t control my emotions. They worked hard this season.”
Mary Louis, outside of two errors, had done more than enough to win heading into the bottom of the seventh. TMLA took a 1-0 lead on an RBI ground out by Sam Rossi that plated Myers in the third. It turned a 7-7-3 to double off a runner at first in the fourth. The eighth-ranked Terriers (9-4) tied the score at 1-1 on a single by Nicole Lomangino in the sixth after O’Rourke reached on a throwing error. Lomangino scattered eight hits and struck out four in the circle.
Hubert allowed seven hits, fanned four and walked five, but saw her team’s four-game winning streak come to an end. TMLA won the final meeting of the season against SFP, but has lost in this round to them the last two seasons.
“You got to be proud,” Hilltoppers Coach Ginny Peiser said. “We battled and challenged the whole game. They just got one more hit than we did. [Menna] fought that one pitch off and then takes it. She put a good swing on the ball.”
St. Francis Prep will see a familiar opponent in three-time defending champion Archbishop Molloy when the diocesan championship series opens. The Terriers were very close to not making it, but Menna, Cervasio and Emanuele wouldn’t let that happen.
“That was like [being] a kid on Christmas Day,” Menna said of watching the winning hit drop. “You can’t describe it. You can only feel it.”