It only took one hit.
Poly Prep senior Nova Stoller was more than happy to make sure she delivered it. The Blue Devils first baseman connected on the game-winner, smashing a single into the gap between short and third to lift her squad to a 5–4 victory over Fieldston on April 21 in an Ivy League rivalry matchup.
“I come up in really clutch positions sometimes and I have to get the bat on the ball, get the barrel out there,” said Stoller, who finished 3-for-4 on the day. “That’s what coach says all the time, get the barrel out and good things will happen. I think I really made that happen today.”
The game — a repeat of the last two state championships — was a back-and-forth contest from the beginning. Fieldston jumped out to a two-run lead in the top of the third, but Poly answered in the bottom of the frame.
The Blue Devils weren’t perfect in the field, committing a handful of errors that kept Fieldston at-bats alive and made it difficult for Poly to grab any sort of consistent momentum early on.
“We’ve got some young kids in spots that don’t have a ton of experience. They get exposed, sometimes, in a big game,” said Blue Devils coach Mildred Piscopo. “When the pressure is on, I think it’s tough and it was like, who could get through without making the last mistake.”
Poly thought it seized control in the bottom of the fifth, racking up three runs on five hits, including Jane Malafronte’s two-run homer over the left field fence.
“As soon as I hit it, just the feeling, I knew it was over the fence,” Malfronte said. “It really felt good, I knew that was a big turnaround for the team and the game itself.”
Fieldston, however, would not go down without a fight, and the Eagles, once again, answered in their next at-bat, knotting the game at four-all as the heart of the lineup connected on three straight extra-base hits.
Poly did its best to stay focused — getting out of the inning without falling back into a hole — and the Blue Devils’ bats did what they had to when it mattered most. Charlotte Watson smashed a leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth and Stoller knew she had to deliver as soon as she stepped up to the plate. Her two-out single made it into the outfield and, in a game of constant momentum swings, did just enough to seal the victory for the Blue Devils.
“I’ve done it before,” Stoller said. “You find the gap and you get the barrel out and you smack it that way. That’s what I was trying to do.”
Poly will face Fieldston once more in the regular season, and the squads will likely see each other once again in the postseason. This first win, however, was a big-time confidence-booster for the Blue Devils as they look to defend their state championship next month.
“Certainly when you win the first game and go into the second one, you know you can do this,” Piscopo said. “The confidence level is higher, but the team that loses also comes in really hungry. So you’ve just got to hope that your team stays hungry no matter what.”