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This ‘Wonder Woman’ leads the charge

Kristen O’Neill needed a moment before she stepped back into the batter’s box. Kearney’s Joanna Emilio, who had walked, just moved to third when Fontbonne Hall catcher Tommasini Faratro threw the ball into shallow centerfield as Emilio tried taking second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth.

With the go−ahead run just a base a way and the pressure mounting, O’Neill thought of Flora Hulse, her grandmother who died when she was in fourth grade. She lost it and cried.

“I think of her when I need strength,” O’Neill said. “My runner just got to third. I had to drive in the run.”

What happened next was much less dramatic.

O’Neill grounded a ball to second base and was thrown out at first, but she was able to get the run home. It was O’Neill’s second RBI of the game and it gave Kearney the lead for good. Starter Tiffany Irrera made it stand up as the Tigers held on for a 2−1 victory over rival Fontbonne Hall in CHSAA Brooklyn⁄Queens softball action at Gil Hodges Field in Brooklyn Saturday morning.

“I felt I really needed her at that moment,” O’Neill said of her grandmother. “I had to come through.”

The catcher also greatly impacted the game with her arm. Fontbonne’s Michelle Powers drew a one−out walk in the top of the sixth, but was caught stealing second with Katie Losquadro looking to bunt. Shortstop Millicia Malvasio was hit and cut on the nose on the clean slide, but was able to hold on to the ball for Kearney (7−0 CHSAA B⁄Q). She left the game after the play. Losquadro followed with a single, but No. 3 hitter Ashley Schirripa grounded out to end the inning.

“I thought it was going to be so off,” O’Neill said of her throw. “I felt bad because Millicia got hurt, but she didn’t care as long as we got the runner out.”

Irrera was superb in the circle. She had her changeup and drop pitch working and kept the Fontbonne hitters off balance all game. Irrera allowed just three hits, two to Schirripa and one to cleanup hitter Corine Fitzgibbons, struck out six and walked just one. Fitzgibbons accounted for Fontbonne’s lone run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth to score Schirripa, who had tripled off the fence in center, to tie the score at 1.

Fontbonne (5−1) had a chance to take the lead in the first inning. Fitzgibbons sent a blast over Emilio’s head in center field, but Schirripa, who was running from first, fell coming down the third−base line. She was thrown out at home, keeping the game scoreless.

The Bonnies fell in the teams’ first meeting last season, but ended up beating the Tigers the next two times to win the Brooklyn division. Still, Kearney isn’t thinking about last season, just that it is in the driver’s seat for now.

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