The ball went up in the air off Madeline Giannini’s bat and lofted into short right field. St. Joseph by the Sea coach Mike Ponsiglione took a deep breath.
“I knew it was a do-or-die,” he said. “I knew we were gonna win the game or lose the game on that play. There wasn’t gonna be a play at the plate. That was either gonna be a diving catch or we were gonna lose.”
And the ball? It hung up just enough for Kristy Colangelo to run in, slide and make a stunning catch to seal a 1-0 win for St. Joseph by the Sea on Tuesday at Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Field in the Bronx. The victory marks Sea’s sixth Archdiocesan title in the last eight years.
St. Joseph by the Sea players mob Kristy Colangelo after she made the game-ending catch.
Photos: St. Joseph by the Sea-Preston
Preston right fielder Kristy Colangelo makes a diving catch to end the game with the bases loaded.
Photos: St. Joseph by the Sea-Preston
“When the bases are loaded and it’s down to the last out, you gotta go all out,” Colangelo said. “You gotta leave everything out there.”
The Vikings (15-0) will meet the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens champion in the state semifinals 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kellenberg in Uniondale, L.I. They might not have gotten there without Colangelo’s play, which was reminiscent of some of the saves she made as Sea’s soccer goalkeeper in the fall.
“Unbelievably fearless,” Ponsiglione said. “No fear. She’s come such a long way. She used to be afraid to make mistakes. I used to tell her all the time, ‘Kristy, the only way you’re gonna find out if you can do it is if you do it. Be aggressive. Be yourself.’ She’s an athlete.”
The sliding catch preserved the victory and the shutout for Jackie Cautela, who gave up just four hits and struck out eight in seven innings to the Panthers (15-2). She outdueled Preston freshman Julianna Orrico, who was also excellent, giving up just one run on three hits in seven innings.
Sea’s lone run came in the first inning when Alexandra Prescia crushed a long double into left center and came around on a Lianna Jordan bunt and Alannah Dawson sacrifice fly. The Vikings wouldn’t score again off Orrico, but that’s all Cautela needed.
“Jackie threw her heart out today, she really did,” Ponsiglione said.
The junior ace started to run out of gas a bit in the seventh, though. Orrico led off with a single and Kitty Lajqi put down a bunt hit, setting up first and second and no one out. Franki Primiani bunted into a fielder’s choice – catcher Vanessa Jioia made a great play behind the plate to get the lead runner at third – and Victoria Rivera walked. With the bases loaded, Cautela struck out pinch hitter Mary Connolly and got Giannini to fly softly to right.
“It looked like one of those bloop hits,” Cautela said. “Kristy is the fastest girl on the team. She got a good jump on the ball. I was confident in her.”
It would have been a heartbreaking loss for most teams, but not for Preston. In fact, Panthers coach Rachel Mazza couldn’t stop smiling afterward with the thought that only one player (Lajqi) graduates from her team. Orrico and star third baseman Danielle Kibler are both freshmen.
“Did we expect championship?” Mazza said of this year. “They made us believe. We could only get better. They’re so young.”
This was Sea’s year in the Archdiocese, especially after the Vikings fell to St. John Villa in the semifinals last year. They were highly motivated to take home this title.
“We wanted this more than anything and we got it,” Cautela said. “Hopefully we’ll continue this.”
It’ll be hard for Sea not to carry some momentum into the state tournament next week. The incredible catch and celebration in right field will be a lasting memory, though, no matter what happens next.
“There’s nothing better,” Colangelo said. “I’ve never felt anything like that before.”