Ryan Hondorf huddled with his American Studies softball team after its stunning victory over John F. Kennedy Campus. It took some doing, but when the coach finally got his jovial band of Senators to lower their raucous celebration a decibel or two, he summed up in two sentences what their 15-0 victory over Kennedy meant.
“That is a statement game right there,” Hondorf said. “We are officially the team to beat.”
It certainly was not a shock American Studies came away with the win in what was a battle of unbeatens. What was stunning, however, was how the Senators shut down a Kennedy program that had gone 39-3 over the past three seasons with a pair of division titles and a trip to the Public School Athletic League championship game on its ledger.
No one has done to the Lady Knights what American Studies was able to do. And not even the Senators themselves saw this coming.
“I expected a close game based on how they beat their past opponents,” Hondorf said. “I was expecting a tight one with a lot of small ball being played. But that wasn’t the case.”
American Studies (4-0) jumped on Kennedy (4-1) for three runs in the top of the first with two of those runs coming off a single by Ava Grill Dubois. Though the Senators squandered scoring opportunities in both the second and third innings, Kennedy was unable to claw its way back into the game due to the dominance of Senators pitcher Neveah Franky.
The junior right-hander was masterful throughout and only seemed to grow stronger as the game went on. Franky allowed just two hits and a walk in her five innings of work as the Lady Knights simply could not get on-track offensively.
That was not the case for the Senators, though, as they scored two more runs in the fourth inning with Emily Eljamal’s run-scoring single the key hit. They then erupted for eight runs in the fifth with Franky, Eljamal, Sydney Borak, Maia Fernandez, Annabelle Medina and Emma Bartolazo each delivering RBIs.
“We didn’t think we were going to blow them out like we did,” said Eljamal, who finished with three RBIs. “It just proves that we’re the best in our division, and we’re going for the city championship.”
While the Senators’ offense was piling up runs, Franky was in cruise control throughout allowing just one Kennedy player to reach third base and striking out seven to get the win.
It was a near-flawless performance.
“In the beginning I wasn’t throwing as hard as I wanted to, but as the game kept going, my speed picked up,” Franky said. “And once that happens, the ball just flies off my hand.
“I know how to hit my spots and manipulate the ball to where I want it to go.”
American Studies was well aware of Kennedy’s reputation as a PSAL power, and that made for some anxious moments for both Franky and Eljamal before the game.
“There were a lot of nerves with me and Neveah because we knew if we could beat this team, we could win the division,” Eljamal said. “There was a lot of excitement because we wanted to win this game, but there were also a lot of nerves.”
“It was definitely scary coming into the game,” Franky said. “But we came in ready to play and ready to win. So we just had to go out there with the mentality that we were ready to kill it.”
Franky is a chief reason for a lot of the Senators’ success so far, Hondorf said.
“Our pitching was outstanding,” the coach said. “Neveah only allowed two hits and had seven strikeouts in five innings. It all starts there. She is pretty much our anchor right now.”
A convincing win over a quality program like Kennedy has American Studies dreaming big this season. Division title? Sure. A possible city championship? Hey, why not?
“It seems to me right now that we would be the team to beat if we continue to play clean and how we’re capable of playing,” Hondorf said. “If we play to our potential, I don’t see us not coming away with the division championship.”
But Eljamal has more grandiose plans for the Senators.
“I think we could win the city championship,” Eljamal said. “The way Neveah is pitching, and we already have a good team both on offense and defense. So yeah, we’re going to go far this year. Last year we got eliminated in the second round, but having the same team as last year — but with improvements — we’re going to take it far.
“We’re the team to beat now.”