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Freeport eyes playoff berth

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Freeport softball entered the home stretch of the regular season this week within reach of the postseason.

While Freeport’s bid at an undefeated Conference AA-II record came to an end Monday with a 4-1 loss to Valley Stream Central, the Lady Red Devils were still in strong position to claim the league’s lone playoff berth. A perfect conference mark had been a large focus for a senior-laden Freeport this season a year removed from a second place conference finish with a 12-3 record.

“I have been preaching from the start about going undefeated,” second-year head coach Rich Genzone said prior to Valley Stream Central handing Freeport’s its first conference setback after an 11-0 start.

Senior Naggalie Cruceta has been the ace of pitching staff with four different pitches in her arsenal that has helped her record eight wins. Cruceta tossed a two-hitter with five strikeouts in a 14-1 win at Lawrence last Tuesday five days after allowing just three hits in a 12-0 shutout against Roosevelt on April 25.

“She has great command,” said Genzone of his Cruceta, who also has hit over .500 at the plate.  “She is very smart on the mound and challenges the hitters.”

Cruceta’s younger sister, Jaylynn Cruceta, is another capable arm in the circle has also been a force at the plate. She recorded 10 strikeouts and knocked in four runs in a 23-14 victory at Hempstead on April 16.

The sister-duo’s cousin, Kisaire Cructa, has been among the leading hitters with a near .600 batting average. She knocked in four runs in a 9-6 win at Uniondale on April 11 in a game where Naggalie Cruceta struck out 10.

“She gets on base and has a very good eye at the plate,” Genzone said.

Junior shortstop Yulianna Frometa, has been a sparkplug for the Red Devils by leading team in triples with six to go along with hitting above .500 average. Senior catcher Alyssa Hernandez has also been instrumental in Freeport’s potent offense with 12 RBIS.

“When she gets the opportunity with base runners she has been coming through,” said Genzone of Hernandez. “She has been getting better and better.”

Freeport’ had three scheduled game remaining after the loss to Valley Stream to try and sew up its first playoff berth in two years. Genzone said the Red Devils would likely claim a playoff spot if they can hold serve, but a second setback would put their postseason hopes in jeopardy because of how little margin for error there is Conference AA-III.

Genzone credits the cohesion of his eight seniors with the younger players as playing a large role in this year’s success. He said if his team can get a chance to compete on the postseason stage there is no reason why they can’t make a surprise run deep into May as long as mistakes are limited.

“We need to try and play as flawless as we can,” he said. “If we can play nearly error-less, we can challenge the top teams.”