Ask Sacred Heart senior softball players Claire O’Brien, Janae Barracato and Kayla Fitzpatrick about their dominating victory and you’ll get mostly mundane answers with the occasional smile. Ask about their stuffed bear mascot, and their faces beam with excitement.
“This is Sparty,” Fitzpatrick said. “We kind of washed him up, gave him some softball equipment, some earrings, some shorts. He has some lucky pins and he just comes with us everywhere.”
“Sparty,” aptly named after the Sacred Heart Spartans, was found by assistant coach Dennis DeBorger in a dumpster of a Hempstead park during a practice in the girls’ freshman year.
Now, dressed with a catcher’s chest protector, Sparty has seen a core of freshmen with a .500 season turn into state champions with many key plays back from last year.
“He’s as old as we are,” said Fitzpatrick, who went 2-for-3 with a run and RBI double in a 9-0 five-inning CHSAA victory over Kellenberg Tuesday at Lynbrook’s Greis Park.
“Maybe older,” Barracato slyly remarked.
Barracato, committed to Seton Hall, earned the right to crack a few jokes, blasting a home run in the first inning for the game’s first run and working walks her other two at-bats. The fleet-footed third baseman had three runs and three stolen bases.
“I was trying to start a rally and help out the team,” Barracato said, “and I somehow saw a good pitch to hit and I hit it.”
Siobhan Perini added a two-run double, driving in Fitzpatrick and Kate Karamouzis to take a 3-0 lead after the first inning.
That would be plenty of offense for O’Brien, who only surrendered one hit and one walk in the complete game. She dominated throughout, striking out nine batters — including the first three outs of the game — and retiring 15 of the final 16 hitters.
“When I’m on the field, I’m just like ‘She’s going to strike them out,’” Barracato said. “We have no worries.”
It was also the first time the two teams played since Sacred Heart defeated Kellenberg (3-2) in last season’s CHSAA championship, and went on to win its first state title in school history.
“We wanted it really bad,” O’Brien said. “We knew Kellenberg would come out firing. They’re a great program and we had to come out strong and play Sacred Heart softball.”
Every Sacred Heart (4-1) starter either scored or drove in a run with Elizabeth Gabberty, Emma Nidermaier and Lauren Wasserman adding runs and Riley Leimbach and Marissa Braito with RBIs.
“It’s almost like you motivate the girl behind you,” coach John Rama said. “Everyone wants to contribute.”
“We wanted to make a statement coming out that we’re the defending champions, we want to stay on top,” said Fitzpatrick, holding Sparty in her arms. “We know they’re a tough opponent, but we wanted to come out strong and show our best team and we did.”