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St. Anthony's softball team set aside injuries to make history

St. Anthony's softball players pose with their championship

St. Anthony's softball players pose with their championship plaques after defeating Molloy in the CHSAA state championship  at St. John's on May 28. Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

Alyssa Seidler found herself where no player wants to be - confined to the sideline.

The St. Anthony’s pitcher led the Friars to the CHSAA state softball championship game in 2018 and was a Newsday All-Long Island selection. She worked hard throughout the offseason to improve her game in hopes that she could help the Friars win a state championship in 2019.

But in the first game of this season, Seidler's hopes and expectations seemingly crashed. She felt something in her shoulder . . .  “pain I’ve never had before,” she said.

Seidler was diagnosed with tendinitis in her throwing (right) shoulder and she was shut down. And when Friars starting catcher Gia Pitagno suffered a torn ACL in the same game, she was forced to join Seidler on the sideline.

“It was so hard to watch knowing that your team is out there giving it their all,” Seidler said. “And you’re just on the side incapable of doing anything.”

Friars coach Mike Massa tried to get his team to stay positive about its goals. “We kept telling the kids we can do it,” he said. “But I had some doubts along the way.”

Massa shuffled his lineup, using at least four different first basemen and second basemen. Erin Steinert, who was going to pitch and play the infield, needed to pitch nearly every inning. Ava McGee, a sophomore, became the starting catcher. A lineup that featured Jess Roberts and Taylor Zatyk, looked nothing like what Massa had expected it to be entering the year.

But the Friars made it work. In fact, they did more than make it work. They made history. St. Anthony’s (18-5) won its first state softball championship with a 6-5 victory over Archbishop Molloy May 28 at St. John’s University.

Some players admitted that after the way their season started, they didn’t know if they would be able to realize their dreams. “You could tell everyone got worried,” Seidler said. “Nobody knew what was really going on. But I was glad we all worked through it and got the end result as a team we were hoping to achieve the whole season.”

Seidler eventually found her way back onto the field, making a few appearances pitching in relief. But she performed at her best when the Friars needed her.

In her first start since her injury, she faced Moore Catholic of Staten Island in the state semifinal. Hoping to go at least four innings and ease Steinert's workload, Seidler tossed an eight-inning no-hitter with 11 strikeouts and had a two-run single in the 2-0 victory

“The whole process of recovering was super stressful, super emotional,” Seidler said. “I worked so hard to try to get back to my team, and being able to pitch that game meant so much to me. I didn’t think I would be able to pitch that much.”

Steinert, 5-0 with a 0.92 ERA in the postseason, tossed a complete game to clinch the state title. Massa credited the senior’s resolve to take on a larger role throughout the season, saying, “You come across kids like her only a couple of times when you coach.”

“I have to admit I was a little nervous because I was wondering how my legs would hold up,” Steinert said. “But it was so exciting and I’m so honored to be able to carry my team to that game. An inexplicable experience. I wish I could do it all over again. It was such a process . . . no one thought we could do it without two of our star players. And we did.”

FRIARS’ ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

CHSAA CHAMPIONSHIP

Kellenberg, 3-2

STATE SEMIFINAL

Moore Catholic, 2-0

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

Archbishop Molloy, 6-5

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