Poly beats heat, Mann for fifth straight NYSAISAA title

Poly Prep has an intricate pre-game routine that’s more cheerleader than softball player. There’s singing, a little dancing and the trademark mimicking of a rollercoaster.

But, with the potential of oppressive heat last Wednesday, May 26, senior pitcher Victoria Capozucca sent a Facebook message to all her teammates about the cheering.

“Not necessarily to shorten it,” Capozucca said. “But to just pace ourselves. We were doing the rollercoaster with our water bottles in our hands.”

There was none of that in the game, though. No. 1 Poly Prep scored once in the first inning and seven times in the second en route to a 9-0 win against No. 2 Horace Mann in the NYSAISAA softball championship game at Manhattanville College. It’s the Blue Devils’ unprecedented fifth straight state title — they set the record with four last year.

“This is special,” coach Mildred Piscopo said. “It just hasn’t been done.”

Capozucca has been in the circle for all five of those victories and normally she is a pitcher who makes things look easy. But she was more gutty than dominant for Poly (15-0) during the final two innings in the 95-degree heat. Horace Mann (11-4) got two on with no one out in the sixth before she closed the door and the Lions loaded the bases in the seventh only for Capozucca to wiggle her way out of it on sheer will.

“Oh my God,” she said. “I was dying.”

Those seven second-inning runs were a godsend. Megan Anise, Katie Friel and Christa Wojcik all had RBI singles in the frame off Mann starter Mia Farinelli.

“That was great that they rallied,” Capozucca said. “If I didn’t have those eight runs, I would have freaked out.”

Instead, she bore down. Capozucca gave up no runs on five hits and struck out eight in a seven-inning performance. It was her third game in four days and she said the early cushion provided some peace of mind.

“I knew I wasn’t going to give up eight runs,” Capozucca said. “I haven’t given up eight runs in a long time.”

It did get a bit scary in the seventh when Horace Mann slugging shortstop Lauren DelPrete hit a long fly ball to left field with the bases loaded. But Kerri Saputo caught it about five feet from the fence for the final out. The screaming players met near the circle in a tight group hug and later they chased down Piscopo to douse her with water from the Gatorade cooler that didn’t look to be as bad of a fate as usual given the heat.

“It’s amazing,” said Wojcik, who also had a triple and two runs scored. “It’s something I know I’m going to remember the rest of my life.”

Poly Prep hasn’t lost a league game in five years, a streak of more than 70 contests. The only games the Blue Devils lost this year were to the top three teams in the rankings: St. Joseph by the Sea, Tottenville and James Madison. And all of those games were painfully close.

“They help,” Piscopo said of those non-league games. “It’s just tremendous. It gives us a great deal of focus.”

Not that the close-knit Blue Devils needed any more. This was the goal at the beginning of the season and anything else would have been disappointing.

“Every year just tops it,” senior shortstop Erica Sollazzo said. “This year it’s bitter sweet. It’s the last time we’re going to be playing together.”

But they will go down together in history.