Valley Stream Central has overcome the loss of its best softball player and put together a four-game winning streak to take a firm hold of second place in an improved Conference AA-III.
After a slow start against Hempstead at Firemen’s Field, the Lady Eagles got the bats going and opened May just like they closed April — distancing themselves enough from an opponent to end the game after five innings. Freshman pitcher Tiffany Longarzo helped her own cause with a homer and four RBIs, and sophomore Jasmine Garden drove in four runs as Central pulled away for a 16-4 victory.
“We’ve been playing really well,” coach Arty Riccio said. “We’ve had to move some kids around because of injuries, but everyone’s become comfortable and doing a great job. I didn’t realize we had this much depth. Hitting-wise, we’ve been strong all year.”
Central (7-3) scored 14 unanswered runs after falling behind the Lady Tigers 3-2 in the top of the second inning. It scored seven times in the bottom of second, highlighted by senior Veronica Bumbalo’s two-run single, to take control. “We had some great at-bats with two outs,” Riccio said. “We don’t have a weak spot in the order. Anyone we’ve plugged in has done a great job.”
Riccio was forced to juggle the lineup early in the season when shortstop Randi Ruderman suffered a wrist injury that would cost her all but a few games of her sophomore campaign. The defense eventually took shape, he said, when Garden moved from behind the plate to shortstop, with freshman Amanda Picillo replacing her at catcher. “Losing Randi was tough,” Riccio said. “She’s been acting like an assistant coach and coaching first base.
“Amanda’s been great behind the plate, and Jasmine’s filled in nicely at short,” he added. “They both had some experience at those spots, so it’s been a smooth transition.”
Garden may no longer be behind the plate, but she’s been sizzling in the batter’s box. She’s hitting .618 and has 14 RBIs during the four-game winning streak, including six in a 24-9 victory at Westbury on April 25.
In addition to becoming stronger and more confident in the pitching circle in her second varsity season, Longarzo is hitting the cover off the ball. She’s batting at a .650 clip and hit for the cycle in an 18-2 win at Elmont on April 29. Her homer was a grand slam, and she drove in nine runs in a game stopped due to the mercy rule.
Riccio said freshman Jenny Dignam, sophomore Kayla Diedrick and junior Nia Outlaw are also swinging hot bats. Dignam tripled, doubled and singled and drove in three runs against Elmont, Diedrick had two RBIs in a 9-5 win over Uniondale on April 26, and Outlaw had three RBIs versus Westbury.
“We’ve got a great group of girls,” Riccio said. “The level of play in our conference has improved. You really can’t take anyone lightly.”