Lincoln kicked off the game, on Friday, May 23, with RBI’s from Analisha McKenith (1-for-3), Francesca Gagliardi (2-for-3, 1 R, 1 2B) and Katharine Fuentes (2-for-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 3B) in the top of the 1st inning, immediately putting Clinton’s backs against the wall. A potential jinx was also hanging over their heads.
“The original playoff game was postponed because of rain,” said Clinton coach Richard Eaton. “With the 2nd round right after the three-day holiday, I was forced to order a bus for our team to travel out to Madison High School before we even won this game. I was so nervous that I jinxed our chances.”
In an attempt to fight the potential jinx, Eaton worked to calm his pitcher, Ashley Icaza, down after the tough opening inning.
“She had not been throwing a lot of change ups,” noted Eaton. “I wanted her to vary her pitches and not throw the change up when expected. She listened. That was the key to our win.”
Eaton had help in the form of Kassandra Leidemer, a junior catcher, who called the entire game’s pitches.
“She was totally on the money,” Eaton said. “We needed her. With 75 people at Clinton cheering for us, it would be hard for me to get Ashley’s attention during the game. I trusted Kassandra. She didn’t let me or the team down.”
With the Leidemer-Icaza team settled down and getting the job down from the mound, Clinton’s offense also woke up, scoring one run in each of the first two innings.
“My bench was really helping out,” Eaton said, noting that none of his players complain about lack of playing time, choosing to instead play a different role, cheering their team from the sidelines. “They were a big part of that win,” he continued. “There was not a moment that went by when they weren’t screaming or yelling in support of their teammates.”
The cheers helped. With the score tied in the bottom of the 4th inning and Jazcelyn Pagan (2-for-4, 2 R, 2 RBI’s, 1 3B) on 3rd base, Niki Rodriguez made her one hit count, scoring Pagan on a two-out single that ended up being the winning run.
Icaza (2-for-4, 2 R, 1 RBI) and Yesenia Grullon (2-for-4, 2 R, 1 RBI) also contributed offensively in the thrilling win, advancing into the double-elimination rounds against Madison.
“That was an amazing win,” said Eaton, whose team advances as the only remaining Bronx school, after both Stevenson and Lehman lost earlier in the week.
“The Stevenson coach called me the other day to congratulate us,” Eaton said. “All the softball coaches talk to each other. The Bronx is really rooting for us.”
Eaton said that the win has erased any worries left in the team. “The nerves have disappeared,” he said. “We are among the top eight teams in the City. That’s an amazing accomplishment. As far as I am concerned, the pressure is now on everyone else.”