YORKTOWN, N.Y.— With one out and the game-winning run on second base for John Jay-East Fishkill, Yorktown’s softball team was in dire straits in the seventh inning of the Section 1 Class AA championship game.
But the Huskers thrive in big moments when the game is on the line.
Senior second baseman Angie Serrano made a heads up play to catch a runner at third base and fellow senior Erica Salveggi capped off her gem on the mound with a fitting pop out to give the second-seeded Huskers’ a 1-0 win and their second-straight Class AA title.
After getting the first two runners on, the Patriots bunted them over to second and third. The next batter hit a ground ball to Serrano and she was ready to make a play. After seeing the baserunner caught between second and third base, the senior captain fired to freshman third baseman Lizzie Ornstein.
“I kind of thought before the pitch, ‘If the ball’s hit to me, what am I doing?’ Serrano said. “I checked the runner and she was halfway, so I said, ‘Why not get her.’ Let’s get her.”
That’s exactly what they did.
John Jay-EF’s Megan Schumacher was a few feet off third base while Lindsey Gillespie was more than halfway to third. Schumacher was able to get back to third but Gillespie wasn’t so lucky as Ornstein chased her down and applied the tag on May 26 at North Rockland High School.
Salveggi, much like she did all game, induced a pop out to none other than Serrano for the final out.
“I can’t breathe, honestly,” Salveggi said. “It’s been crazy this year and that last inning was probably the most amazing thing in my life. This whole season we’ve been playing hard and tough. I never had a doubt that we’d make the plays.”
Second-year Yorktown head coach Ryan Iamurri made a trip to the mound when the Patriots had their first two batters reach in the seventh. The team’s motto is “bend, don’t break” and that’s exactly what she relayed to them.
“I went out there and I said, ‘How many innings have we had first and second on offense,” Iamurri said. “And we were like, ‘A lot.’ And how many have we scored? The answer was none. We had runners on and we hadn’t scored. I was just trying to show them that we can get out of this. We can a hundred percent get out of this.”
Serrano also came through with a big play in the sixth inning, making a diving play and firing a strike to first base from her knees.
“I know that my teammates will have my back,” Salveggi said. “Angie basically saved the game for us with that diving play at second. Everybody plays their heart out.”
Iamurri said the improvement of the defense was a pivotal part of the Huskers’ run.
“It’s nice to see the team get better over time and I don’t even mean season to season,” she said. “This season, they were great at the beginning, but we had flaws. All we did was hammer those flaws and one of those was our fielding. Angie making that play up the middle…just seeing the difference in our approach and how we want the ball compared to we were afraid if it was hit to us (in the past).”
Salveggi pitched a five-hit shutout. She had the top-seeded Patriots off balance all game, inducing a plethora of pop outs and weak grounders.
“Erica works so hard and we have full confidence that she’s going to get it done,” Serrano said. “She’s going to trust her defense to work because she knows that she’s not alone out there. We have her back no matter what.”
The senior captain said she utilized her curveball to get the Patriots to hit the ball in the air.
“I want to say she’s not a strikeout pitcher but she’s had a ton of strikeouts this year,” Iamurri said. “She might be at a hundred (strikeouts). Her MO is make it spin enough to mishit it. Our outfield is one of the best outfields I believe in the state. If we can get fly balls I’m all for it. She doesn’t have to do anything except get ahead and let her defense work and we’ll be golden there.”
The lone run of the game was scored with two outs in the second inning when Kaitlyn Bennett blooped a hit past second baseman Gillespie, bringing home Bella Vano from second base.
In the semifinals, the Huskers defeated third-seeded and visiting Suffern 4-1 on May 23.
With the game tied 1-1, a stroke of luck helped the Huskers take the lead when Suffern catcher Erika Witt fired a ball to third base to try to catch Serrano, but the ball bounced off batter Erin Gray’s helmet and out of play, allowing Serrano to score.
Courtney Cardea singled and Brianna Buck blasted a two-run home run to dead center. Just like that, the Huskers had a three-run lead.
“Going into the season we wanted to work hard,” said Serrano, who added that the team practiced three times a week at Athlete’s Warehouse during the offseason. “We made it last year and we knew we could make it again. We just wanted to make it happen and put the work in so when we get on the field it’s just second nature to us.”
Salveggi was magnificent again, going the distance while striking out nine. She also had a sacrifice fly to get Yorktown on the board.
Yorktown (21-2), which fell in the Class AA state regional finals last season, will face Horseheads of Section 4 in the regional semifinals today at 2:30 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School near Binghamton.
“On and off the field we are so close,” Serrano said. “We’re all friends and we all include each other. We do things like team bonding. We do recovery practices together. We’re just always together and that helps us on the field.”