The reward for Bronx Science’s victory over Cardozo in the Public School Athletic League second-round playoff game was a visit to Staten Island and a shot at No. 1 seed Port Richmond.
The Raiders came into the tournament as heavy favorites to win the PSAL championship this season, and they also own the most lethal pitcher on the circuit — Lily Russo.
So when the Wolverines took the bus ride over the Verrazano Bridge for a quarterfinal-round date with Port Richmond, there weren’t many giving them a fighting chance. The Raiders regularly beat up on their competition, posting double-digit runs in nine different games this season.
And they were not about to let up against the feisty Wolverines.
Science senior pitcher Anna Leidner went toe-to-toe with Russo, however, limiting the Raiders to just three runs. Russo, however, was just a bit better, shutting Science out while allowing just two hits and striking out 10 in a tight 3-0 contest last week.
The loss was the only one of the season for Science, who finished 14-1.
“Anna kept us in it, of course,” Bronx Science coach Tom Morris said. “Defensively we played well, but we just couldn’t hit that pitcher. She’s the fastest in the city. We did make it interesting in the first inning when we got a couple of runners on. But after that, she settled in, and she was as good as advertised. She’s the reason they are the No. 1 seed right now.”
Morris’ team earned a moral victory by competing for seven innings against the best the city had to offer.
“They didn’t fall under the usual ‘we have no shot’ syndrome when it comes to playing Staten Island teams,” Morris said. “I don’t know what it was, if it was just believing in themselves and trusting Anna. They just played really loose, and we had a lot of fun.”
Junior third baseman Brett Zakheim credits the laid-back attitude the Wolverines had going into the game.
“I think we just went out there knowing we had nothing to lose,” Zakheim said. “It was also an error-free game on both sides, and I think it was one of our best games of the season for sure.”
After the game, Morris gathered his players and spoke about the goals the team accomplished this season and of the contributions of his outgoing senior class.
“It was just about the thanks and the appreciation for what they had given us,” Morris said. “We were just going around telling stories about the seniors and what they had added to us over the years and the school records that they had set.”
Records like four division championships, three out of four years reaching the quarterfinals — which had never been done at Bronx Science before — two playoff wins and a walk-off playoff win over Cardozo.
“That was the last win for this senior class, and how special was it that we did it in walk-off style,” Morris said. “This was just a very special group.”
For Zakheim, the team-leader in positivity, the loss to Port Richmond did not lessen what the Wolverines achieved.
“This has been the most successful season ever,” Zakheim said. “We won the division undefeated, reached the quarterfinals, and we were really able to come together as a team, which isn’t something you can take for granted. It was because of the leadership of Anna and all the seniors we were able to come together and play our best, especially in this last game.”
With the senior class of Leidner, Alexa Asch, Alex Feeley, Sinaia Keith Lang, Fiona Sullivan and Uma Balachandran exiting, the Wolverines will have a decidedly different look next season as they vie to continue their long string of success.
“Next year we’re going to have to be gritty and we’re going to have to work for everything,” Morris said. “There’s going to have to be greater intensity every single game, and our bats and our defense are going to have to improve if we want to contend for a division championship.”
Even Zakheim knows it could be a bit of a bumpier ride next season.
“It’s sad to see the seniors go,” Zakheim said. “And it will be hard to match this season, but we’ll see.”