In Keith Mansfield’s first year coaching the JFK Campus softball team in 2010, his team did not win a game.
This season, the Lady Knights seemingly could not lose. They were 13-0 and Bronx B-I division champions, then won three non-league games and were the top seed in the PSAL B Division playoffs.
But they ran into a buzzsaw in the semifinals: fourth-seeded Robert H. Goddard of Queens, which earned a 16-8 win over them on Saturday at the College of Staten Island.
“It was the first time we hit obstacles this year and couldn’t get over them,” Mansfield said. “In the last inning, we made a little bit of a run, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Lady Knights scored three runs in the last inning, but Goddard had already built up a comfortable lead, scoring 13 runs in the first three innings, including eight in the second.
The loss did not diminish what JFK Campus achieved in the regular season. Many of Mansfield’s players had not played Little League softball, so most started from scratch their freshman year. But players like captains Naomi Jimenez and Naomi Rodriguez set the tone for the season, Mansfield said.
“Sometimes captains are the best player but aren’t the best leaders, my captains were very talented and vocal,” he said. “It made my job that much easier.”
In the team’s final non-league game, Kimberly Zapata stole home in the bottom of the seventh inning for a walk-off victory over Long Island City, 10-9. JFK Campus had one rough inning when it allowed seven runs, some of which were unearned due to errors.
The same thing happened in the playoff game. Still, Mansfield was proud of his team’s fight, especially because they were softball novices relative to their competition.
“You can see it in the team that beat us — they had girls who had played softball since they were little,” the coach said. “It was awesome competing with them. Without that eight-run inning, it would’ve been a game. My girls were ready, we just didn’t play our best game.”
Junior pitcher Charina Medina settled herself down after a rocky start, but it was not enough to advance to the PSAL final.
Mansfield said he will be losing five senior starters next season, but is especially proud of this class for its perseverance. He also noted how impressed he was with them off the field, especially Rodriguez, his second baseman and captain, who he called a true scholar athlete.
“The girls were tremendous this year — the coaching staff was very proud of them,” Mansfield said. “These girls were always ready, they never underestimated their opponents and never took anything for granted.”