Last Updated: 2:46 AM, March 15, 2012
Posted: 2:39 AM, March 15, 2012
The Tottenville dynasty took a one-year sabbatical in 2010, a short break from a PSAL city softball title.
Last year, though, the Pirates were right back at the top of the heap, winning their seventh title in eight years with a thrilling, extra-inning victory over James Madison.
Yet, somehow, every season before the first pitch is thrown, Tottenville is downgraded. The pundits say the Pirates won’t be the same as their predecessors, that the run of championships is about to come to an end for good.
Cathy Morano, the architect of this excellence, is used to it by now.
“They say that every year,” the coach said. “So whatever.”
Tottenville is the favorite to win an eighth title this year for one main reason: Cheryl Lopez. Then a sophomore, Lopez was absolutely brilliant in the postseason last year, shutting down Madison in the final over 10 innings and no-hitting Francis Lewis in the semifinals.
Lopez, the top pitcher in New York City, shared time in the circle last season with Nicole Palase, who now plays at St. Joseph’s University. That won’t be the case this season. Morano will use Lopez early and often, while mixing in a little of Brianna Reyes and Gilizia Mendoza.
“We’re gonna put the pitching load on her this year,” Morano said. “Our strength obviously is gonna be the pitching. Hopefully Cheryl can keep us in it. We look good hitting.”
The lineup was a question mark coming into the season. Yes, New Haven-bound catcher Jennifer Palase, with her speed and power, is back at the top of the lineup and athletic sophomore Jillian Regan returns as a masher in the middle of the order. But Tottenville graduated arguably the two best hitters in the five boroughs in Nicole Palase and Victoria McFarland, who is now at Albany.
Morano will be looking toward some youth to fill their spots as power bats. Second baseman Ashley Notaro and first baseman Naylah Ramirez will slide right into the lineup near the middle.
“They’re doing well,” Morano said. “They look good out there. We’re looking for them to step up and make contributions.”
Regan will move from first to shortstop. Next to her at third will be Nicole Fillisetti, who saw time at the hot corner when Samantha Mattsson, now at Queens College, missed time early last season with a broken finger.
Stepping into center field duties for the excellent McFarland will be Krista Casale. Jillian Giuffre will man left and Nicole Bellini takes over the right field duties full time. All three contributed to last year’s title run.
Lopez, though, was the linchpin and will be again in 2012. She allowed just three hits in 10 innings, pitching in her first championship game. Lopez transferred to Tottenville after her freshman season from Notre Dame Academy. She’s very much a key cog on the team now, the key to the Pirates continuing their impressive stranglehold on PSAL softball.
Morano, though, is never one to make predictions. Her modest goal every year is to make the playoffs. You won’t hear her talking title until her players are doing a victory lap holding the banner.
“I think,” she said, “we’ll be in the mix.”