Katharine Fuentes looked up into the mist as the ball was popped high in the air over the pitching circle. The bases were loaded with two outs in the seventh and Abraham Lincoln was ahead by four. The ball, which was on its way down to her glove, would be the final out of a long and laborious day for the ace senior windmiller.
“I was thinking,” she said, “I better catch it.”
That she did, putting a cap to No. 14 Lincoln’s 10-6 victory over No. 19 Riverdale/Kingsbridge in the first round of the PSAL Class A softball playoffs in Coney Island Thursday. The Railsplitters move on to play No. 3 Susan Wagner Monday in the second round.
Fuentes, who struck out the game’s first batter on three straight pitches, struggled the rest of the way with her control. The game was played in a steady mist and wind, not the best conditions for a pitcher.
“The pitching mound was horrible,” Fuentes said. “It was wet. I had the ball fall in the mud. It was horrible. The ball was wet. It felt heavier.”
She allowed six runs on five hits and walked 12. RKA (12-5) loaded the bases twice in the game, in the first and seventh innings, thanks to the free passes, but scored just twice. Riverdale starter Erica Wilczek allowed just two earned runs and walked nine.
“The weather was definitely bad, but she’s better than that,” Lincoln coach Kimberly Procida said of Fuentes. “The other pitcher was having a hard time, too. She got through it, bases loaded twice, but she got through it. She is a trooper that girl.”
Procida took over a month into the season after previous coach Carlos Gonzalez was fired for having players practice without medical or parent consent, according to athletic director Renan Ebeid.
Early run support also helps. After Riverdale scored the game’s first run in the top of the second, Lincoln scored six times in the bottom of the inning thanks to some costly Tigers errors. Sophomore Liza Acevedo singled to left with the bases load to score Jerry Shapiro. The throw home was late and Riverdale catcher Jane Witkowski, who had time, tried to nail the runner heading to third, but threw the ball high into left field, allowing three more runs to score. Another error and an RBI single by Corina Corado accounted for the other run, giving Lincoln (10-8) a 6-1 lead.
“I thought I was going to get a double,” Acevedo said. “I actually thought she was going to catch it. When coach told me to keep going, I just kept going.”
Riverdale added a run in the third and got two more on a Witkowski RBI double in the fourth to make it 6-4. The junior catcher had to leave the game and was taken to a local hospital after appearing to break her right ankle sliding into third on a steal that would have put runners on second and third with two outs.
“I heard it snap right way,” Tigers coach Bob Finz said. “She was in there and then to make matters worse, she hurt it and it she was off base [and tagged out]. That did turn the game around a little bit because we were rallying.”
Lincoln scored twice in the fifth and two more times in the sixth on sac flys by Erica Juarbe and Fuentes to take a 10-4 lead. Riverdale rallied for two runs in the seventh, but Fuentes got Wilczek to pop out with the bases loaded to end it.
“I believe in them,” Procida said of what she thought when the ball was in the air. “I was getting a little sweaty, but a pop-up is an out to me.”
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