After cruising to their very first Bronx A-1 Division title this season with a near-perfect 11-1 record, the American Studies softball team opened the postseason in dominating fashion when the Senators overwhelmed Forest Hills 22-1 in the first round of the Public School Athletic League playoffs.
But as the Senators prepared for their second-round game against Metropolitan Campus High School of Queens, a school trip wound up leading to an unexpected road trip for the Senators. The American Studies sophomore class was scheduled for a field trip on the day of the Senators matchup with Metropolitan, so alternate plans were needed — and in a hurry.
So the PSAL graciously moved the contest from last Wednesday to Friday, but with one little glitch in the Senators’ plan. Because no fields were available in the Bronx that day, American Studies lost its home game and had to trek out to Queens to take on the ninth-seeded Knights.
Turns out it was well worth braving Memorial Day weekend traffic as Emily Eljamal knocked in a pair of runs and Neveah Franky was dominant on the mound as the Senators rolled over Metropolitan 7-3 to advance to the PSAL quarterfinals.
“I’ve been here for four years, and this is the furthest I’ve been,” head coach Ryan Hondorf said. “None of the girls we have on the team now or any of the coaching staff have ever been this far.”
Seemingly annoyed they had to travel across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in holiday traffic, the Senators got right down to business, jumping on Metro for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Eljamal’s RBI single knocked in Maia Fernandez. The third inning was like deja vu for the Senators as Fernandez again reached on a single, and Eljamal again drove her home with a run-scoring single for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, sophomore first baseman Sydney Borak got in on the action with an RBI single. Two more runs in the fifth on a pair of errors by Metro earned the Senators a 5-0 lead.
“We took advantage of their errors and took whatever they gave us,” said Eljamal, the Senators junior catcher. “They weren’t making the plays on the easy popups, and we were getting on base, and we just drove them in.”
The Senators, the No. 8 seed, completed their scoring in the bottom of the sixth when Alexis Guberman and Emma Bartolazo delivered RBI doubles for a 7-0 lead, and American Studies was on its way to the quarterfinals.
Franky was superb on the hill, going the distance and coming within one out of hurling a complete-game shutout. The only blemish on her day came when she allowed a three-run homer with two outs in the seventh. But she rebounded to get the final out and seal the win for the Senators.
“Neveah was great,” Hondorf said. “Almost got the shutout.”
Franky was a bit anxious before the game, according to Eljamal, but the two soon got into a groove and never let Metro shuffle together any offense until it was too late.
“She was a really nervous beforehand, but we went in there like we were the better pitching/catching duo, because we are,” Eljamal said. “We went out there to kill, and we did throughout the game.”
It was a little reconnaissance after the win over Forest Hills that helped prepare American Studies for Metro, Hondorf said.
“We did our homework,” said the coach. “Forest Hills was in their division, so we talked a little bit with their coaches about them. In their scouting report, they said they had a really good pitcher who was also a really good batter (Alexa Puikokas), so in practice prior to the game, we worked on quicker swings and preparing for that great pitcher.”
The victory set up another road trip to Queens for the Senators, this time to face top-seeded John Bowne High School in the quarterfinals. That game was scheduled for May 28, and it was a date the Senators looked forward to.
“To be the best you’ve got to beat the best,” Hondorf said. “The two, three, four and five seeds all went down (in the playoffs), so I told the girls that it’s about time that the No. 1 goes down, too.
“We’re very excited.”
And the Senators were going in a confident bunch.
“I think were the better team,” Eljamal said. “We’re going to be something that they’re not expecting.”