As daylight was fading fast, there was only one approach Giovanna Bonilla had at the plate Tuesday in Game 3 of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Class AA softball final.
Bonilla ended an exciting matchup Tuesday afternoon by driving in Victoria Brown for the game-winning run in powering Archbishop Molloy to an 8-7 diocesan softball championship victory over St. Francis Prep at the Padavan-Prellar Complex in Queens.
“I realized key hits was winning this game. So I just had to get something that would get ‘Brownie’ [Brown] across that plate,” Bonilla said. “It didn’t even matter if I was safe or anything as long as that got her in, it worked.”
Bonilla’s single past the dive of St. Francis Prep shortstop Alyssa Siess into left field off relief pitcher Katie Siano occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning and helped Molloy complete a series comeback after losing 5-3 in Game 1 on Monday.
Molloy pitcher Alexandra Yule needed just 75 pitches earlier in the day in a 5-1 victory to force the winner takes all matchup. The Stanners will face St. Joseph by-the-Sea in the catholic state semifinals on May 26 at 2 p.m. from Kellenberg High School. The Vikings earned a 4-3 victory in the Archdiocesan championship over Preston in Staten Island on Tuesday.
Molloy and St. Francis Prep continued to stage a long-term rivalry that has always featured plenty of close games. The 2015 season was no exception in which Molloy won four of the six matchups as the teams played three hours to ultimately crown a champion.
“There has been some battles over the years but this is probably been the best battle,” Molloy coach Maureen Rosenbaum said. “Pitch for pitch, inning for inning. It’s been all year back and forth.”
There were four lead changes and two ties in Game 3 while Yule and Monica Zhivanaj, who was the starting pitchers for Molloy and St. Francis Prep respectively, would each be taken out by the fifth inning.
Stanners relief pitcher Amanda Zeni stranded the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning by striking out Julie Menna and Katie Siano to keep the game tied at 7. Zeni was on the losing side in the opening matchup Monday, but bounced back in Game 3 to strand 9 bases runners in 3 and two-thirds inning of relief.
“It really felt amazing. I believed in us in our team and after yesterday it made us stronger like Giovanna said,” Zeni said. “We were meant to be the champions because we worked hard this year and we bounced back from last year pretty well.”
St. Francis Prep had a hard time containing a potent Molloy lineup in which eight of the nine starters recorded at least one hit. Molloy scored twice in the bottom of the fourth off an error committed by the Terriers and Nicole DeMaria’s go-ahead single to take a 3-2 lead.
Terriers’ senior catcher Kelly Licul, who went 3-fot-3 with two intentional walks, hit a booming two-run homer to left field off with one out in the top of the fifth inning to recapture the lead at 4-3. A double steal allowed courtesy runner Anna Prisco to race home from third to add to a two-run lead.
St. Francis Prep (11-7), ranked No. 3 in New York City by MSG Varsity, could not hold on to the lead. Jessica Hickey slammed a two-run double down the left field line to plate Ally Klesin and Camille Sears and Jamie Durso added an RBI single to give Molloy a 6-5 advantage.
Klesin had a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth for a two-run Stanners lead, but the Terriers battled in the top half to keep its season alive. Rebecca Colak hit a single to centerfield and a subsequent error allowed the tying runs to score to make it a 7-all game.
St. Francis Prep lost an important player prior to the start of the bottom of the fifth inning. Brianna Baglino, who had two hits in the game, was plunked on the right side of her body near the first base line on an errant throw made by Yule across the diamond. Baglino was later removed with an injury and the loss of the third baseman would be felt.
But the Terriers could not score the go-ahead run in the eighth inning despite getting the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the eighth inning. In the slimmest of margins, just getting one more run proved to be the ultimate difference between victory and defeat.
“That was a heck of a game and who came up with the big hit would win. It’s always us and Molloy and ever since the beginning of time its always us and Molloy,” Licul said. “They always have a sold team, solid defense solid bats and you got to give it to them.”