“Softball” and “loss” don’t often share the same sentence at the John F. Kennedy Campus. In fact, one could count the number of regular-season losses the Lady Knights have endured over the past three-plus seasons on one hand and still have a couple of digits to spare.
There have been exactly three JFK losses since the start of the 2015 season to go along with 49 wins. So when the school dropped a 10-5 decision to South Bronx two weeks ago, it caught the Lady Knights by surprise, leading head coach Keith Mansfield to have a heart-to-heart with his team.
“I felt like they were just cruising through the season, and I feel like they maybe lost the eye of the tiger a little bit,” Mansfield said. “They weren’t used to that obstacle, and they didn’t know how to react. But they dealt with it in a good way. Now we’re bouncing back and we’re ready to go, so I think it was a good thing for this team to lose that game. They got the eye of the tiger back.”
Since that loss, the Lady Knights have responded with three straight victories with only one being mildly competitive as they took down Jane Addams 11-4 before trouncing Clinton 18-2, despite missing four starters. JFK then completed its 3-0 week with an 11-6 victory over Bathgate in which the Lady Knights rallied from a 6-4 hole with a seven-run sixth inning to run their record to 8-1 in the Bronx A-1 Division.
“I really think that loss woke us up,” said senior pitcher Stacy Hernandez, who struck out 25 batters in picking up all three wins last week. “I mean, every team is beatable and every team has its bad days. But I think that loss just woke us up and we’re rolling again.”
As is usually the case with the Lady Knights, they jumped on both Addams and Clinton early, taking all the drama out of those contests right from the start. Against Addams, Kennedy scored their 11 runs in the first four innings of the game with Lisbeth Martinez and Amore Serrano each knocking in a pair of runs.
Against Clinton, it was an avalanche of offense that saw Kennedy scored eight times in the first inning and adding six more in the second to build an insurmountable lead despite playing without four starters. Hernandez picked up four RBIs in the game, while Emelin Munoz and Serrano each drove in three runs.
Finally, in the come-from-behind win over Bathgate, it was Hernandez again leading the way with three hits and five RBIs, while Serrano had a pair of hits and three RBIs in the win.
Playing that Clinton game shorthanded showed the kind of depth this Kennedy team has on its roster, Hernandez said.
“It gave everybody a chance to taste the game and see how it actually feels to play,” she said.
One final test looms for Kennedy in the regular season as the Lady Knights are in a neck-and-neck battle with American Studies (7-1) for Bronx A-1 Division supremacy. The two teams will meet twice over the final four games of the regular season, with the division crown hanging in the balance.
Kennedy won its last three division titles on the Public School Athletic League’s B level before being moved up to the A level this year.
“Those games are huge, they’ll be like playoff games,” Mansfield said. “I feel that how we go against American Studies will determine how our run into the playoffs will go. If we take two games, we’re going to fly into those playoffs red hot. If we go 1-1, then hey, it will be another wake up call. If we go 0-2 against them, it could end our run.
“But Stacy’s pitching well. When she’s firing on all cylinders, this team can go really far.”
Hernandez, the stellar senior, thinks Kennedy has the goods to make a deep run once the postseason arrives.
“It’s not only about the way I throw, we’re a good team,” Hernandez said. “It took a while for this team to feel like a family because we lost so many seniors last year. But we’re starting to get that feeling again, and we’ll be ready for anyone.”