By Elio Velez
Robert F. Kennedy shortstop Julia Toth is a dreamer. The senior recalls sitting next to softball Coach Jed Herman in the stands last June watching Lab Museum capture the PSAL Class B title at St. John’s University.
Toth had a good feeling her Panthers could be celebrating a city title and the dream would come true for No. 7-seeded Robert F. Kennedy. The Panthers held off a late rally by Queens High School of Teaching for a 16-14 victory Sunday afternoon at St. John’s University to capture the school’s first title.
“I’ve been playing softball all my life and this is something I’ve always wanted,” Toth said. “I said this was going to be us next year. I wanted it so badly and we worked so hard for it.”
RFK, in Flushing, (19-2) leaned on the senior production of Toth, who recorded four hits and drove in four runs on the day. Toth drove in a run in the bottom of the sixth to give RFK a 15-10 lead and that vital insurance run paid off for the Panthers.
Senior pitcher Gabriela Cordero got the win by holding off the Tigers from completing an almost miraculous comeback.
QHST, in Bellerose, (14-6), which stepped down from the A division last season, scored seven runs in the sixth and pulled to 16-14 on a run scoring single by starting pitcher Elizabeth Byrnes. RFK then rightly got Kameisha Vanzant to ground out to third base with the tying runs on first and second to end the game.
Winning the championship has been a work in progress for RFK and Herman. He has found the athletes in a school of just 700 students and boosted a team that posted a 3-10 record in 2011 to a championship squad.
RFK has improved by arguably playing one of the most competitive divisions in the city. RFK won the Queens II Division title against the No. 12 seed Tigers, top seed Robert H. Goddard and playoff-bound Scholars Academy this season.
“It’s a maturation of young girls who work hard every day and care about what they do,” said the fifth-year coach. “It’s about them. It’s nothing to do with me. They have the will to win.”
Cordero had recovered from an ACL injury in her freshman year to become the team’s top pitcher. When the pressure was building from the attempted comeback by QHST she remained calm and kept her faith.
“I had a feeling like everything is ours,” Cordero said. “It was the perfect moment, you know, when you have your family to back you up and you know everything is OK.”