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Kirker, Poly Prep come back on Wagner

Erica Sollazzo told Katy Kirker, her Poly Prep teammate, that fate was coming into play.

Kirker was having a great day at the plate, but had two costly errors at second base that led to five Susan Wagner runs in the fifth inning. Before Kirker got up to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sollazzo pulled her aside.

“You’re going to win the game for us,” Sollazzo told her.

She proved to be prophetic. Kirker launched a deep fly ball to right field with one out, Christa Wojcik tagged up at third base and came home with the game-winning run in a come-from-behind, 7-6 victory for Poly Prep in a non-league game on Thursday, May 6 in Bay Ridge. The Blue Devils were down, 6-3, coming into the inning.

“I wasn’t too happy with myself,” Kirker said. “I wanted to get it back for the team.”

The senior was really the hitting star all afternoon for Poly Prep. Her RBI triple in the first inning drew the Devils even with No. 6 Wagner at 1. In the third, her RBI single gave Poly a 3-1 lead. Her offense has been something that has come along lately and coach Mildred Piscopo batted her cleanup that day for the first time. Usually she’s either in the fifth or sixth spot in the order.

Kirker’s renaissance came in a 6-1 win against Riverdale on April 28. Piscopo told her after the game that she was impressed with what she saw.

“In four years, that’s the best swing I’ve seen you take,” the coach said she told Kirker.

Added Kirker: “I’ve just been more confident, more comfortable in the box.”

Of course, she has had better days in the field than last Thursday. The usually sure-handed second baseman misplayed two balls in the fifth inning, one in which Wagner exploded for five runs to take a 6-3 lead. Falcons pitcher Taylor Sarcone’s two-run single was the big hit, but Sollazzo, the pitcher, certainly deserved a better fate.

She – and the entire Poly team – got picked up in the seventh inning, though. Sarcone came into the frame retiring the last seven batters. But freshman Jackie Kennedy belted an opposite-field double to lead things off. Piscopo said she felt then that something positive would happen.

And it did. Katie Friel reached on an error and Jamie Sarubbi drove in Kennedy with a single. Wojcik reached on another Wagner error and Friel scored. Sollazzo’s RBI groundout tied the game at 6 and Kirker finished it off.

“There’s no better feeling in the world,” Sollazzo said. “This is why I love softball. … These are the type of games we love.”

Piscopo said this was the best game her team has played since a preseason trip to Florida. Sometimes, the coach said, the intensity level is actually higher for her players during non-league games against the city’s elite teams rather than league games. Poly has, after all, won four straight Ivy League and NYSAISAA titles.

“This is one of the better teams we’ve played this year,” Piscopo said.

Wagner coach Marco Altieri wasn’t happy with his squad afterward, though.

“We threw the game away,” he said. “We literally threw the game away. It was the quickest postgame [talk] I’ve had in 12 years. We have to do better than that. Unacceptable.”

Factor in the exciting comeback, the fact that Poly was coming off a draining, 2-0 win against Fieldston on Wednesday and that ace Victoria Capozucca didn’t start and this was a big-time win for the Blue Devils. This is the reason Piscopo stacks her schedule at the end of the season in preparation for the NYSAIS tournament – Poly has games left against St. Joseph by the Sea, Tottenville and James Madison.

“Psychologically,” Piscopo said, “it’s a good win.”

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