Baldwin celebrates unlikely comeback

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Baldwin failed to qualify for the Nassau Class AA softball playoffs but still managed to produce a memorable finish to 2019, including a victory coach Tom Llewellyn doesn’t expect to top anytime soon — if ever at all.

On May 7, the Lady Bruins rallied from three, four and six runs down to stun Port Washington, 15-14, in a Conference AA-I/II crossover. A remarkable seven-run rally with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, which included hits from all five seniors, gave Llewellyn’s never-say-die club a fourth win in its last five games.

“I’ve never been involved in a game like that,” Llewellyn said. “It was 1-1 after three innings and both teams were playing really good defense. Then it just got crazy.”

Baldwin trailed 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth when standout senior catcher Juliet Bernstein roped a bases-loaded triple to tie it. After a scoreless fifth, Port Washington grabbed an 8-4 lead with four runs in the top of the sixth. The hosts responded again with a Bernstein RBI single and a three-run double off the bat of junior Merysee DeJesus to make it 8-8.

“The girls just kept picking each other up,” Llewellyn said. “The first time they really hung their heads was coming off the field in the seventh.”

The Lady Vikings appeared to put the game out of reach with a six-run rally in the top of the seventh, including a two-run homer from Lois Chu. “We didn’t commit any errors, give them credit for hitting the ball,” Llewellyn said. “The only thing we helped them with was a few walks.”

Baldwin’s hope dwindled in the bottom of the seventh when a sacrifice fly by junior Caitlin Zagas brought home eighth-grader Dylan Reyer, but it brought Port Washington one out from victory holding a 14-9 lead. That’s when the hit parade started.

Bernstein (.642 average, eight homers, 34 RBIs) singled and senior Katelyn Borello tripled, making it 14-10. Senior Brianna Salvatore singled home Borello, and it was 14-11. Salvatore advanced to third on a DeJesus double and scored on senior Nicole Manzella’s single, bringing the Lady Bruins to within 14-12. Sophomore Sydney Sparks pinch ran for Manzella and stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position. DeJesus and Sparks — barely — both scored on senior Alexis Aponte’s single and it was tied.

“That was Alexis’ best at-bat of the year,” Llewellyn said.

Aponte, who took second on the throw to the plate to try to erase Sparks, was at third base after a bunt single by Reyer. Junior Alexa Zuniga, who missed most of the season with a broken thumb, completed the unlikely comeback with the game-winning single, setting off a wild celebration.

“I went crazy, the girls went crazy and the fans went crazy,” Llewellyn said. “You could just feel the excitement build during the inning. Every hit, the place got louder and louder.”

The late-season surge allowed Baldwin to finish 7-10 overall. “I wish the season could’ve lasted a little longer,” Llewellyn said. “We were definitely playing our best ball toward the end.”