By Joseph Staszewski
A narrow victory in the quarterfinal brought out the best of Construction in the following round.
The top-seeded Red Hawks had a team meeting at practice Friday about the focus and intensity they needed to have after earning a walk-off win over Telecommunications the day before. Words turned into actions.
“That close win was really good,” Construction Coach Marco Migliaccio said. “It showed them we needed to step up.”
Construction responded with a performance fitting of a No. 1 seed in a 10-0, five-inning, run-rule win over No. 5 James Madison Saturday in the PSAL Class AA softball semifinal at the College of Staten Island.
The Red Hawks pounded out six hits, three for extra bases and broke the game open with a six-run third inning.
“Today we were more pumped,” senior ace Britney Rodriguez said. “We were more ready to play.”
The contest was a major showcase for freshman second baseman Lizul Portugal. Migliaccio said he moved her into the lead off spot for the playoffs in hopes of generating more runs.
It has paid off. She went combined 4-for-6 with five RBIs and three runs scored in the quarterfinal and semifinal. Portugal blasted a 200-foot grand slam over the left field fence to cap the third inning of the semifinal against Madison.
“It felt great,” she said of the round tripper. “I was just up there ready to hit. I’m just really happy.”
Senior Rodriguez is confident in passing the torch to Portugal and Emily Perez, as the Red Hawks’ future stars and pitchers, when she leaves after this season. Perez, who had the winning hit in the quarterfinal, had an RBI triple and scored twice against Madison (17-2). Rodriguez knew Portugal would also come come through for her team.
“When she got up to bat with bases loaded, first thing in my head was she is going to hit a home run,” she said. “And boom, she hit a home run.”
Rodriguez, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI at the plate, did her job in the circle as well. She allowed just two Knights hits and struck out six. Madison’s best chances to score were in the second inning with the bases loaded and two outs and again after a one-out triple by Cheyenne Tatesure in the third inning. Rodriguez kept a run from scoring each time.
“After that it just brought them down, which made us more excited,” Rodriguez said.
After two innings, Construction (18-1) led 4-0, to which Amy Pirozek contributed an RBI double, before the Red Hawks broke things open in the third. Construction loaded the bases with no one out before Daniela Isabella delivered a two-run, two-out single down the left field line to put the Red Hawks up 6-0 before the big blow from Portugal.
The Red Hawks advance to their second straight final and get a rematch with No. 3 Tottenville June 8 at St. John’s University. Construction won the teams’ regular season meeting.
“It feels great to make the championship game,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have to finish strong.”