By Laura Amato
Lizul Portugal takes it as a compliment when opposing teams opt not to pitch to her.
It means they’re scared of what she can do at the plate and as far as Portugal is concerned, she can do just about anything with a bat in her hand.
The High School for Construction junior was one of the most dominant hitters in the entire PSAL this spring and her prowess in the batter’s box is why she’s been named the TimesLedger’s All-Queens Player of the Year.
“It really does actually do a lot to my confidence,” Portugal said of teams avoiding her at the plate. “They may try to pitch out and I still try and get the hit. I just try to stay relaxed and calm. I don’t know, I don’t really do anything special. I just try and hit. I always try and stay aggressive.”
Despite the best attempts of opposing teams to avoid pitching to Portugal this season, the shortstop still managed to produce at the plate.
In fact, she did one better—she dominated.
In 15 regular-season games, Portugal hit .646, third best in Queens “A,” and drove in a staggering 43 RBI.
She finished second in the league in hits (31) and tied for first in home runs (7).
It would have been easy for Portugal to simply focus on her own stats. She could have zeroed in on her own success and smashing the ball out of the park in every at bat. She could have, but she didn’t.
Instead, Portugal helped spark the rest of the Red Hawks lineup this spring, as her teammates did their best to get on base so that she could drive them in.
“It was kind of just being myself,” Portugal said. “I wouldn’t necesarilly say it’s a new role because even when I was a freshman, I always tried to speak out. I was always trying to help out even when I was one of the younger girls.”
Portugal’s team-first approach was apparent in every aspect of her approach this season, including her pre-game routines. The multi-year starter doesn’t have any sort of solo schedule to get her ready for games, opting instead to join her squad in what she called “circle time.”
It’s a moment Portugal relishes, an opportunity to simply sit with her team and talk about anything. Sometimes that includes softball. Sometimes it doesn’t. In the end though, it brought them all together and it was that comraderie that helped the Red Hawks earn a berth in the city title game.
“We like to joke around, have fun,” Portugal said. “We’re all pretty comfortable with each other so we get all the drama out before the game starts and then we’re ready. Sometimes we do these mini jumping jacks. That’s the funnest thing ever.”
Portugal can’t help but still be a bit disappointed with the way the season ended, falling to Tottenville in the championship game, but she’s also confident that the Red Hawks will be back next year.
Construction will return over half its roster next spring and, once again, Portugal is ready to lead her team in any way she can, even if opposing squads aren’t willing to try and pitch to her.
“I’m really excited,” Portugal said. “We’re a little bit used to it and while I’m sure there’ll be some pressure, we can throw in some new twists next season. We’ll be ready.”