Just two innings earlier, Kerri Saputo had struck out looking with the winning run in scoring position. Now she had swung and missed on a hittable pitch, the first of this at-bat, with a runner at second and two outs in the eighth. An out would have given Fieldston another chance to end Poly Prep’s six-year Ivy Prep League winning streak.
But with her swing complete, Saputo heard screams. She turned and saw teammate Jacquie Kennedy in the Blue Devils dugout. She told Saputo to cut down on her swing, that a single would suffice.
“I was nervous, but she was right,” Saputo said of Kennedy. “The first pitch I swung at I was trying to hit it far. All I needed was a single. That’s what I went up there to do. “
And that she did.
Saputo lined the next pitch from Fieldston ace Emily Kling into left field to score eighth-grader Amanda Grossman and give host Poly Prep a thrilling 4-3 win on April 15 and extend its league winning streak to 63 consecutive games.
“We were very nervous, but I think we all believed deep down we were going to win,” Saputo said.
Poly jumped ahead early by answering an Eagles run with two of its own in the first inning, aided by an RBI groundout from Kennedy. It added a run in the second to go ahead 3-1. Fieldston scored once in the third thanks to a Blue Devils error and again in the fifth to tie the score at 3-3.
The Blue Devils had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the six with two outs and a runner on third. Kennedy walked and tried to draw a throw by running to second. Instead it was cut off by shortstop Kate Miller, who fired home to cut down the go-ahead run at the plate.
None of that fazed Grossman. She remained poised, calm and sure of herself on the mound in each inning and got stronger as well. Grossman scattered five hits and struck out seven and didn’t let Fieldston threaten after giving up the lead.
“She keeps her composure,” Poly Prep coach Mildred Piscopo said. “I know regardless of the situation in the game, her head is not going to be out of it. That’s tough for any kid, especially one who is young.”
Youth is something that is present throughout the Poly roster. The players were load and cheering with every pitch and play in the final innings and bouncing into team huddles before heading to bat.
“I think that personality that they have that seems lax at times from a coaching perspective keeps them loose,” Piscopo said.
Winning certainly helps.