By Joseph Staszewski
Queens enjoyed one of its best softball seasons in recent years.
St. Francis Prep, after an up-and-down regular season, broke its five-year CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title drought by sweeping a resurgent Mary Louis in the final.
Construction reached its second-straight PSAL Class A title game, but this time fell to Tottenville. And Bayside and its seniors brought the program back to the semifinal round for the first time since 2008.
Scholars Academy completed a wild, seventh-inning comeback to top Robert H. Goddard for the PSAL Class B crown. Archbishop Molloy rebounded from a tough 2013 to win the diocesan regular season crown.
Here are the players who helped propel the teams in Queens to great heights this year:
All-Queens Player of the Year: Britney Rodriguez, Construction
Rodriguez did everything you could ask from a player on a softball diamond. She was the Red Hawks’ best hitter and pitcher, leading them to the city title game for the second-straight year.
The senior batted .727. She drove in 51 runs and scored 38 times during the regular season. In the circle, Rodriguez went 15-1 with a 2.04 ERA, while striking out 163 batters in 89 innings.
All-Queens Coach of the Year: Ann Marie Rich, St. Francis Prep
Championships had eluded Rich and St. Francis Prep during the last five seasons despite the Terriers never missing the diocesan championship series. This year, the longtime head woman turned in one of the best coaching performances of her career.
Rich successfully meshed the talents of young players with those of SFP’s strong veteran core. The group improved and excelled when it mattered most to win the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title as the No. 3 seed.
All-Queens Softball First Team
2B Tara Bernstein, Bayside
The Pace-bound Bernstein kick-started the powerful Commodores’ offense all season with her bat and her legs. She hit .605, scored 31 runs and stole 31 bases during the regular season. Bernstein is also an accurate fielder and one of the squad’s vocal leaders.
CF Briana Emanuele, St. Francis Prep
The senior turned in one of her best performances in a Terriers’ uniform. She provided a steady bat in the No. 3 spot of the batting order. Emanuele hit .393 with 20 runs scored and six RBIs in the league. She moved from third and played a sterling centerfield to anchor the St. Francis Prep outfield.
P Heidi Gomez, Bayside
Gomez found a new level of dominance in the pitching circle and continued to be one of the city’s best hitters. She went 14-1 from the mound, had a 1.27 ERA and struck out 133 batters while walking just 21 during the regular season. Gomez hit .591 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs.
P Nicole Hubbert, Mary Louis
The senior was the driving force behind the Hilltoppers’ bounce-back campaign. Hubbert was TMLA’s hard-throwing ace. She tossed a 1-0 complete game victory over Archbishop Molloy in the semifinal and was nearly impossible to get out at the plate.
C Kelly Licul, St. Francis Prep
Licul turned up her game in the playoffs and powered SFP to its first diocesan title since 2008. The junior batted .426 and scored 17 runs. She hit a huge homer in a semifinal victory over Fontbonne. Behind the plate, she kept runners from stealing extra bases and helped develop young pitchers.
1B Taylor Moss, Archbishop Molloy
The Holy Cross-bound Moss remained one of the city’s most dangerous hitters, one you didn’t want to see coming up to the plate with runners on base. Her bat helped power Molloy to the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens regular season crown, and she provided stellar defense at first base.
SS Jacqueline Perno. Bayside
The senior quietly went about her business this season as teammates stole the headlines. But the sure-handed shortstop posted a .650 batting average and a .750 on-base percentage. She scored 24 runs, drove in 16 and hit six homers. And Perno went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in a regular season rout of Construction.
SS Amy Pirozek, Construction
Pirozek has been a rock for the Red Hawks during her career, and this year was no different. The senior was one of the city’s top shortstops and a powerful batter. She hit .592 with 21 runs scored and 26 RBIs. Construction will miss her leadership next season.
2B Lizul Portugal Construction
The athletic freshman burst onto the scene in a big way during the playoffs. Portugal, who batted .636, got the winning hit against Telecommunications in the quarterfinal game. She also slugged a grand slam to highlight a five-RBI game to help propel the Red Hawks to the PSAL final.
P Alexandra Yule, Archbishop Molloy
The junior windmiller came into her own in a big way this season. Yule established herself as a dominant, hard-throwing ace while leading Molloy to a first-place finish. She allowed one run on three hits and struck out eight against Fontbonne in the clincher.
P Monica Zhivanaj, St. Francis Prep
Zhivanaj improved and grew more confident as the season went on. Her maturity and development were key to SFP winning the diocesan crown. She went 7-2 with a 2.31 ERA, struck out 54 and also hit .289 at the plate. Zhivanaj held a powerful Fontbonne lineup to just a run in the semifinal.
C Kat Barbaro, Mary Louis
C Victoria Brown, Archbishop Molloy
P Diana Ferreira, Francis Lewis
P Kaitlyn Finneran, Christ the King
1B Emily Gomez, Bayside
C Victoria Mancini, Scholars Academy
C Jayleen Ovalles, Construction
1B Brittney Patterson, Mary Louis
P Victoria Picarella, Robert H. Goddard
SS Maxine Sanchez, Forest Hills
DP Camille Sears, Archbishop Molloy
SS Alyssa Seiss, St. Francis Prep