By Joseph Staszewski
Diana Ferreira isn’t shaking her head at Yenifer Paulino any more. She’s nodding in agreement instead.
The four-year Francis Lewis ace needed time to build chemistry with her new catcher. Paulino was asked back at the position after a year of playing it on the junior-varsity level. Early on, Ferreira was showing her backstop where to place her glove to catch each of her three pitches and often disagreeing with her suggestions on which to throw.
That’s all changed in recent weeks—just in time for the home stretch of the Patriots’ seasons, with the division title still up for grabs.
“She would call the pitches and I would shake my head yes or no,” Ferreira said. “Then eventually I don’t know, she started reading my mind, like she knew what I wanted to throw.”
Seeing the agreement and having productive post-game conversations has put Paulino and Ferreira on a easier footing all around.
“I know then that she is comfortable pitching,” Paulino said.
Despite the early bumps, Ferreira is in the midst of her best season at Francis Lewis. She is 5-2 with a 2.77 ERA coming into this week. She has struck out 64 batters in 48 innings and walked just 19. Patriots coach Bryan Brown is seeing her throw her change-up and screw ball with more confidence. Her years in the circle have also left her better ready to handle tough situations.
“She has been battling it out,” Brown said. “She has done a good job of being a grinder in games. I know it is hard on her because sometimes we rely on her so much.”
Ferreira and Paulino have both benefited from their new relationship. Paulino played both first base and the outfield last season and the switching took its toll on her at the player. She batted just .263 a year ago with no extra base hits. This season, Paulino’s batting an even .700 with three doubles and eight RBI.
“She just keeps getting hits because she is confident where she is, batting in the middle of the order,” Brown said.
The duo’s success and the play of star center fielder Jessica Kovach has helped fuel Lewis to a 6-2 start and within reach of the Queens A crown after an important 8-5 win over rival Bayside April 24. The Patriots still have games remaining with defending city champion Port Richmond and Manhattan A division leader Environmental Studies.
“It was big,” Paulino said of beating Bayside. “We haven’t beat then in over four years. We have been doing a lot better defensively and offensively.”
Much of that goes back to her and Ferreira finding their chemistry. The team has followed.
“They are starting to get on the same page now,” Brown said. “We are starting to build.”