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Star’s late bat change helps Fontbonne win crown

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One small change made all the difference in the Fontbonne Hall softball team winning its first Brooklyn-Queens diocesan softball title.

In the first game of the championship series, Bonnies coach Frank Marinello noticed that Maria Serrantino’s swing looked slow and tired after a long season. He recommended that the junior slugger switch to a bat shorter and lighter than the one she had been using and gave her a Louisville Slugger Xeno. Earlier in the season, Marinello noticed the ball flew off this bat when his junior varsity players used it. He bought one for the varsity team and put it in Serrantino’s hands.

What a difference it made.

“Her hands were slow through the [hitting] zone,” Marinello said. “Now her hands are flying through the zone, bat head to the ball.”

Serrantino went on to homer in each of the Bonnies next two games, including a two-run walk off blast in Game 3 on May 21. This helped Fontbonne beat St. Francis Prep, 6-4. Without her heroics, Fontbonne might have missed out on a chance to compete for a Catholic state title.

“One little switch of the bat,” Serrantino said. “Game changer.”

Serrantino said at first she was leery of the change and mad that Marinello asked for the switch so late in the season. She had used the bat in practice, but didn’t love it. Still, Serrantino decided to give it a shot and quickly noticed the difference. She hit a solo home run over the left field fence in Game 2.

“I was tired and the [new] bat felt so much better in my hands,” Serrantino said. “It worked for me.”

It was the second important switch that Serrantino was a part of this year. She started the season playing shortstop and Ariana Dillon was catching. But, because of her ability to block ace Nicolette Trapani’s pitches low and in the dirt, after the Bonnies dropped their first league game against St. Francis Prep, the coaching staff moved Serrantino behind the plate. The chemistry between Trapani and Serrantino blossomed throughout the year.

“We are in sync,” Serrantino said. “She knows what I’m calling before I call it.”

Dillon’s athleticism, fearlessness and arm made her a better fit at short. This improved the Bonnies defensively up the middle, along with Christina Calascione in centerfield.

“Putting Maria behind the plate and Ari at shortstop really changed our whole defense,” Marinello said.

That along with a bat switch may have also altered the entire outcome of Fontbonne’s season.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 6:56 pm, May 31, 2013
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