The scouting report on James Madison this season is that its lineup is nowhere as hard to pitch to than it was during last year’s PSAL city championship run. There’s still plenty of thunder at the top and in the middle, but graduating five starters has hurt the Knights’ batting order’s depth.
But Saturday morning it was actually the bottom half of the lineup coming up with the key hits.
No. 6 hitter Breanna DePasquale and No. 9 batter Cheyenne Tatesure each came up with big RBI hits and No. 8 hitter Samantha Rehill drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in Madison’s 3-0 win over Francis Lewis in non-league softball in Queens. None of those three saw significant time a year ago.
“I get really happy when the younger girls do it,” Knights ace Kayla Hill said. “It shows that we’re not just a team based on the five of us that were here last year.”
Those three runs, all scored in the fourth inning, would be all Hill needed. The Pace-bound senior righthander tossed a two-hitter, didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven. She faced just one batter over the minimum after catcher Samantha Rodriguez, who might have the best arm in the city for a backstop, gunned down Neileni Esmeral trying to steal in the fifth.
“I have confidence when it’s 0-0 with Kayla Hill on the mound, to be honest,” Madison coach Jeff Meltzer said. “I know that we’re gonna get some runs. She’s just terrific. Without preaching anything, this has to be the Wingate Award winner. Batting, hitting, fielding. Any of the top players, you take off top teams, they’re still top teams. You take Kayla Hill off Madison, there’s a lot of pressure on the rest. Pitching is the game here.”
Hill said she wasn’t nervous that the Knights weren’t scoring in bunches, because they did have eight hits off Lewis starter Priscilla Lallave, who pitched well. They just ended up leaving eight on base.
DePasquale reversed the trend when she drove in Rodriguez (2-for-3) with a single after a Jennie Hosty double. Two batters later, Samantha Rehill plated Hosty with a groundout and Tatesure, a freshman, hit one up the middle, threw Lallave’s legs, to bring home DePasquale. Meltzer is pleased with the inexperienced players’ development, but said it could actually be further along if Madison didn’t lose so many games to rain, including a non-league tilt with No. 4 Construction.
“I think the younger girls are a little behind where I think they could have been,” he said. … While we’ve been able to practice, we haven’t been able to implement in a game. You lose that flow.”
Lewis seemed to be in a little better flow than it was during a 9-3 loss to Construction on April 26 when it shot itself in the foot in the field and on the bases. The Patriots still didn’t hit, but few do against Hill. Meltzer said he expects Lewis, the school both of his kids attended, to be in the mix at the end.
“On one side you’re not happy about the outcome that you lose, but on the other hand we showed fight the entire game,” Patriots coach Bryan Brown said. “We went toe to toe. They beat us and they’re the city champs for a reason. But just the fact that we played the city champs this close is a good thing. It’s good for our confidence.”
Madison, on the other hand, was just happy to get another game in against one of the league’s better teams.
“It keeps us up, because I really believe you play to the level of your competition,” Hill said. “When we play a good team, we step our game up even more.”
Apparently that goes for the new girls, too.