St Anthony's Poses after winning the CHSAA Catholic High School...

St Anthony's Poses after winning the CHSAA Catholic High School State Softball Final at St Johns University on Friday, May 23, 2024 Credit: David Meisenholder

Just when it seemed as if the St. Anthony’s softball team couldn’t set the bar any higher, the Friars turned in their best season yet.

St. Anthony’s completed an undefeated season on its way to a fourth straight CHSAA state title with a five-inning 9-0 win over St. Mary’s (Lancaster) at St. John’s University on May 24.

It was the third straight state title for the Friars’ six seniors. Bella Cruz, Mila Fiordalisi, Valentina Iula, Jackie Morra, Casey Steinert and Ava Vandernoth have all been big contributors each of the last three years.

St. Anthony’s went 25-0 this year and has won 37 straight games dating back to last season.

“It’s been amazing; we’ve become sisters,” Cruz said. “This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. They all started as freshmen and I came here my sophomore year and I was so excited to play with all of them. To think that this is a school team is beyond belief.”

In the state semifinals, St. Anthony’s trailed St. Joseph by the Sea, 1-0, after four innings before Cruz drove in Sophia Erker for the tying run in the fifth. Later in the inning, Cruz and Steinert scored on a go-ahead single by Morra. Vandernoth, a Fordham commit, and Steinert each hit a solo home run in the sixth inning of the 7-1 win.

Once the Friars gained the lead, Fiordalisi shut the door with Iula behind the dish. She struck out nine in a three-hitter.

Iula drove in three runs in the championship game and Fiordalisi allowed just two hits in five innings.

“A big thing for us was that we’ve come so far and we’ve won some big games. We didn’t do all of that just to stop now,” Fiordalisi said after the championship game. “We all wanted to keep the streak going and make records for the school. We wanted to be the group that did it.”

One of those big wins came in 12 innings over Clarence, the 2023 NYSPHSAA Class AA champions, on May 5. Junior Juli Murillo drove in Erker and Sophia Lee on a walk-off single to give the Friars a 5-4 win and keep the streak alive.

Murillo went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple to help the Friars win their seventh straight NSCHSAA title in a 6-3 win over Kellenberg. With Murillo’s emergence as a star — she batted .569 with a 1.634 OPS and 33 RBIs — along with junior Sarah Bielski and sophomores Erker and Lee consistently providing strong at-bats, there were no breaks in the lineup for opposing pitchers.

And with Fiordalisi, a Cornell commit who was named the Gatorade New York Softball Player of the Year, in the circle, runs were hard to come by.

Cruz (UConn), Iula (Providence) and Morra (Villanova) will still share the field for the next four years, but as rivals in the Big East.

“It’s amazing that some of us will be on the other side next year and we’ll get to play each other for the next four years,” Cruz said.

“It’s so weird that this is all coming to an end,” Fiordalisi said. “This group has accomplished so much and I’m really excited to see what everyone does in the future. I couldn’t have thought of a better group to come together. It’s just a tribute to our dedication and how well we worked together.”

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