By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It was the middle of winter, softball was still a few months away, and a snowstorm cancelled school for Telecommunication Arts & Technology. That didn't stop Thalia Santiago who, even as a freshman, was spotted by her coach throwing the ball against a wall in a small area that she had shoveled out.
“At the beginning of the year, she walked a lot of girls,” Telecom's manager Glenn McCartney recalled. “There was one game we lost to Bayside because she walked six batters, but she’s worked very hard and the improvement that she’s made in one season has been incredible.
“In the middle of a snowstorm she was out there working hard,” he continued. “When everyone else is sitting at home, she shovelled out an area to get in extra work. That's how you win games like this.”
Santiago walked just one batter as she held the James Madison Knights, who entered the game a perfect 15-0, to two runs over seven innings in a 3-2 victory for Telecom in Sheepshead Bay on Tuesday.
"I'm a freshman and this is my first year so I've been working really hard," Santiago said. "These girls really push me and today we wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine. Last time we played them they came on to our field and beat us so we wanted to come here and do the same to them."
Santiago not only came through on the mound, but she was also a big part of the offense. The Yellowjackets pushed across two runs in the fourth inning when Susan Gutekunst led off the inning with a double to right field. Santiago drove her in with a triple to left center and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Nalena Cruzado to make it 2-0.
Madison's right fielder Gianna Cariello, who was 1-for-2 at the plate, stumbled after making the catch on the sac fly and was forced to leave the game with a knee injury. The play seemed to frazzle both teams and it wasn't really until the sixth inning when things got back to normal.
“We expected that they would try to rally around her and use that as motivation so I just told the girls that we had to keep playing and to match their intensity,” McCartney said. “The maturity that the girls showed, they didn’t get nervous, they weren’t rattled by Madison, they didn’t lose focus when they could have in the middle of the game, it was great to see.”
Telecom scored another run in the top of the sixth when Kristen Gutekunst singled to left and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0, which ended up being a huge insurance run. Madison scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning when Isabella Gerone reached on an error, Samantha Mendelsohn drove her in with a double to left, and then scored on a sac fly by Cheyenne Tatesure to make it 3-2.
Santiago settled in and retired the final four batters she faced to lockdown the win for Telecom.
The win by Telecom kept Madison from having an undefeated season and it also gives them a lot of confidence headed into the playoffs. Telecom won the Public School Athletic League’s B Division city title in 2011 and was eliminated early in the playoffs in both years since being promoted to the A Division.
“I was on the team the first year we moved up to A and the success we've had since moving up was something that I really wasn't expecting,” said Susan Gutekunst. “We've worked really hard to improve and a win like this is a big confidence booster. We feel like we're in a good position headed into the playoffs.”