For the first time in school history, Holy Child’s softball team won the State Championship, beating Horace Mann 5-3 at Manhattanville College May 29. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for four years and it’s one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me,” said Kathleen Samuelson, the winning pitcher and only senior on the team.
By Melanie Cane
For the first time in school history, Holy Child’s softball team won the State Championship, beating Horace Mann 5-3 at Manhattanville College May 29.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for four years and it’s one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me,” said Kathleen Samuelson, the winning pitcher and only senior on the team.
Samuelson asked Coach Jen Cirillo if she could start as pitcher during the New York State Association of Independent Schools championship — the last game of her high school career. Cirillo gave her an unequivocal thumbs up.
Freshman pitcher Molly Leitner, who went 9-0 on the season, and was originally scheduled to pitch the finale, happily deferred to Samuelson and played first base instead.
The championship game was postponed twice due to rain, so the players were well-rested and eager to play.
Holy Child scored one run in the second inning, two in the third and twi in the sixth.
Juliana Capasso batted two for four, scoring twice. Camille Cavicchio batted one for two, scoring twice. Leitner also went one for two, scoring once and batting one run in.
Samuelson batted three for four, knocking in one run. Her pitching victory brought her career record to 34-11, a school record.
Going into the top of the seventh with a 5-3 lead, Holy Child was only three outs away from winning the coveted championship. Because they were playing flawlessly and Horace Mann had not posed any real threat since the second inning, the championship seemed all but inevitable. However, as though a switch were thrown, (in fact, someone had advised the Horace Mann batters to stand closer to the plate because Samuelson always hits the outside of the plate), one batter after another made solid contact with the ball.
With two outs and bases loaded, that championship was in jeopardy of slipping away. So when the last batter up smacked a line drive ball down the inside of third base, the sound of Samuelson’s heart dropping was louder than the crack of the bat. When she realized Capasso, playing third base, snagged the ball and tagged the base for the third out, Samuelson took a moment to process what had happened. Her grin lit up the stadium like a rising sun.
Before Samuelson began running toward her third baseman, Coach Cirillo ran past the dugout and behind home plate, arms stretched out to embrace her parents, her athletic director, and head of the school, Ann Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Holy Child’s bench cleared, and the bench players and the fielders ran simultaneously toward their teammates, where they embraced, jumping up and down.
The celebration on the field continued as Cirillo and the assistant coaches walked toward the players for congratulatory hugs. Throughout, Assistant Coach Mike Henley stood snapping pictures of all his players like a proud parent.
Cirillo, who began coaching the team when Samuelson was a freshman, said, “We’ve been waiting for this championship for so long. The game was unbelievable.
“I am thrilled for the team, and especially for Kathleen,” said Cirillo.
Cirillo called Samuelson “a quiet leader who leads by example. This is a fun group of girls who got the job done!”
Retiring Athletic Director John Pizzi said he’s extremely proud of the team. “They battled all season, and they truly deserve this.”
It’s the third time a Holy Child team has won a State Championship. The Field Hockey team won NYSAIS championships in 2006 and 2008.