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Cardozo completes stellar year in semis

Cardozo was the underdog. That much the Judges weren’t denying. But there wasn’t a player on the roster that didn’t believe they had a chance at beating sixtime defending champion Tottenville.

“I think going in our heads were up high,” senior ace Amanda Annicaro said. “We thought we could change history.”

No. 5 Cardozo came close, but fell to top-seed Tottenville 5-0 in the PSAL Class A semifinals June 2 at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. The Judges fell to the Pirates 9-1 in last year’s semifinals and put forth an even better effort this time around.

“Obviously, we expected to win, we wanted to win,” Cardozo Coach Larry Alberts said. “But with that being said, I’m very proud. We had a few chances. Their pitcher [Nicole Palase] took charge when she needed to. But we didn’t roll over and die.”

Judges senior first baseman Anna LaBoccetta belted a double in the second inning and senior catcher Sam Mersten had a walk. But Palase wiggled out of trouble and Tottenville (21-0) would score one run in the bottom half and three times in the third.

“They have some good hitters,” Pirates Coach Cathy Morano said. “That kid hit a shot. They string a couple of hits like that together and you’re in trouble.”

But that’s exactly what Cardozo (15-3) couldn’t do. Still, Annicaro kept the Judges in the game. After the third inning, she allowed just one run. Even in that inning, Tottenville didn’t hit her very hard. When she was out with an illness early in the season, the possibility of a return trip to the semifinals seemed bleak, if not impossible.

“It was uncomfortable to not play without our No. 1 pitcher,” LaBoccetta said. “We had our doubts.”

When she returned in April, Cardozo got its swagger back. The Judges, who also shook off injuries to third baseman Gina Mingione and Mersten, didn’t lose another regular season game, including two wins over rival Bayside. They won three more playoff games, a total of 10 straight, to make a second consecutive semifinal after having not made one in coach Larry Alberts’ 23-year tenure.

“I actually feel better about this year than last year,” Alberts said.

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