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Francis Lewis ends Staten Island’s softball reign

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Score one for Francis Lewis and Queens softball.

On Sunday, the second-seeded Patriots defeated top-seeded Tottenville, 8-6, at Fordham University to capture their first city softball championship since 1975 and became the first non-Staten Island team to win the title since Springfield Gardens captured the title in 1983.

Trailing 4-2 after three innings, a Francis Lewis comeback did not seem likely. Pirates’ ace Allison Castellucci was in control, but the Patriots (21-3) went to their running game in the late innings and literally stole a couple of runs and the game.

“We did not want to just play in the finals,” Francis Lewis coach Judy McCleary said. “We wanted to win the game. We never felt like we were out of the game.”

In the top of the fifth, the Patriots swiped three bases and scored three runs with the help of a couple of errors. Senior pitcher Alyssa Schneebaum had an RBI-single after Alexandra Anagnostos and freshman Catherine Alves (2-for-2, two steals, two runs) pulled off a double steal of second and home, respectively.

In the sixth, Victoria Gardner smacked a leadoff triple to right field and Stephanie Alves singled to make the score 6-5. After Lisa Puccio sacrificed her to second, Alves stole third and scored the winning run on a throwing error by catcher Amalia Ditrapani. Victoria Meluzin (2-for-2, three runs) reached on a single in the seventh and scored on an error for the insurance run.

“It’s extra special to win it with my sister,” said Stephanie Alves. Her identical twin, Catherine, is younger by nine minutes. “I never imagined this when we joined the team.”

Schneebaum scattered seven hits and struck out seven in a gritty complete-game effort. She struggled with her control early, walking the first two batters of the game. They came around to score on a two-out double by Ditrapani (2-for-2, two doubles, two RBIs), as did another walked batter in the third.

“I know in my heart my teammates are going to do what they have to do” to win, said Schneebaum, who won MVP honors. “That’s what allows me to play the way I play.”

In a bizarre ending, sophomore Diana Ruddy was caught off second base immediately after Megan Gardella walked to put the tying run on base in the seventh. Her RBI-double on a 3-2 pitch made the score 8-6. Ironically, Ruddy lifted the Pirates to the finals with a two-out, game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth against Port Richmond in the semifinals.

Ruddy “played her heart out,” said Tottenville coach Bert Springstead, whose team fell to 22-1. “It’s tough to lose that way, but she’ll be back next season and so will we.”

Carolyn Krause walked and Kristen Kenavan singled to start a Tottenville rally in the third. They came around to score on a couple of throwing errors by catcher Lucia Oswald, who in the first singled up the middle to plate two runs.

Castellucci, who pitched nine shutout innings in a thrilling 1-0 win over two-time defending champion Port Richmond in the semifinals, allowed only two earned runs with six strikeouts.

Francis Lewis 6, Madison 5. This was not the usual Schneebaum. In fact, it was a Schneebaum not seen this year. Sure the smile was still there, but the Bucknell-bound senior pitcher, who tossed a no-hitter just two days earlier in the quarterfinals, was tight and nervous Thursday at Preller Field, and it showed.

Schneebaum, who struck out a city-best 160 with just 34 walks and allowed five earned runs in 106 innings during the regular season, was shaky from the start as she walked Juliana Endo to start the game, one of eight walks in the game.

The Patriots capitalized on some shoddy Madison defense to compensate for Scheebaum’s struggles. Lewis jumped ahead 3-0 in the first inning and added another run in the third on an RBI-single to center by Gardner, who also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning.

But No. 3 Madison (39-7) scored two runs in the top of the fourth on a pair of Francis Lewis errors to get within one, 4-3. The Patriots went ahead 6-2 in the bottom of the inning on another Madison error and a bloop RBI-single to left center field by Oswald, who was intentionally walked and hit by a pitch her first two at-bats.

After scoring a run in the sixth inning, Madison got within one, 6-5 as Schneebaum walked Nicole Grilli with two out and the bases loaded. Priscilla Young followed, but bunted back to the mound and Schneebaum threw to Oswald to get the easy force at home to end the game.

— Dylan Butler contributed to this story

Reach contributing writer Adam Martini by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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