By Joseph Staszewski
Giovanna Bonilla knew her job was to get Victoria Brown home from third base with no outs — in any way possible — to start the celebration for Archbishop Molloy.
“It didn’t even matter if I was safe or anything as long as I got her in,” said the Archbishop Molloy right fielder said.
Bonilla did it the easy way by lining the second pitch she saw into left field for a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning. Her teammates piled on top of her near first base after beating rival St. Francis Prep 8-7 in Game 3 of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens softball championship series May 19 at Padavan-Preller Complex. It is the Stanners first crown since 2012 and fifth in the last eight years.
“It went from very stressed to excitement,” Bonilla said. “It’s like energy but crazy.”
The Stanners, who lost 5-3 in the first game of the series a day earlier, took the second game 5-1 behind pitcher Alexandra Yule. The extra-inning Game 3 victory ended five hours of softball and a contest that saw four lead changes and two ties. Molloy (19-5) took four of the six games between the two squads this year, including the tiebreaker for the regular-season title.
“We’ve had a lot of battles over the years, but this has probably been the best battle,” Molloy coach Maureen Rosenbaum said.
Her team was in position to win, leading 7-5 going into the top of the seventh. St. Francis Prep (11-7), however, had a different idea, getting an RBI single from Rebecca Colak and a second run scored on an error in centerfield to tie the score at 7-7.
Those were the only runs Amanda Zeni, who was the losing pitcher in the first game of the series, gave up in her 3-2/3 innings of relief of Yule. The senior stranded nine runners during that time, getting out of a situation in which the bases were loaded with no outs in the top of the eight
“Amanda is a tough kid,” Rosenbaum said. “She’s been solid and she didn’t get rattled since she was a freshman and I pulled her up to varsity.”
The back-and-forth contest started with St. Francis Prep jumping out 2-0 with help from a RBI single from Kelly Licul, who was 3-for-3 with three RBI. SFP ace Monica Zhivanaj gave a run back in the bottom of the inning, thanks to an RBI single by Brown.
Zhivanaj, who was making her first start in four weeks because of a virus, saw Molloy score twice in the fourth and grab a 3-2 lead on a Nicole DeMaria single. The advantage was short-lived. Licul smacked a two-run homer down the left field line to put the Terriers back up 4-3 in the top of the fifth. A single by Brianna Baglino chased Yule from game.
Baglino was eventually lifted from the contest after she was hit by an errant throw from Yule warming up at short. She did ask Baglino, who had two hits in the game, to move further from first base. Baglino did so, but a throw got away from Yule. The junior would have been up in two key situations in the later innings.
“That really hurt us,” Licul said. “She’s strong at the plate. She’s been hitting well. She’s strong defensively. She’s smart. That could have made the difference.”
Molloy regained the lead at 6-5 with a three-run fifth, highlighted by a two-run Jessica Hickey double. Jamie Durso also drove in a run and Ally Klessin added a sac fly in the sixth to make it 7-5.
The Stanners needed extra innings to close out the win and finally earn its 10 seniors a diocesan crown. Molloy advances to face Archdiocesan winner St. Joseph by the Sea in the CHSAA state semifinals 2 p.m. May 26 at Kellenberg.
“Yesterday made us stronger,” Zeni said. “We were meant to be champions because we worked hard this entire year.”