Once again, Latin Academy will face East Boston in the softball Boston City League championship game on Memorial Day.
The Dragons (11-8, 7-0) of the South Division will take on the Jets (12-7, 7-0) of the North Division at Cobe Field in the Back Bay Fens at noon.
Latin Academy defeated East Boston, 11-1, in last year’s title game and is going for its fourth consecutive league championship. The Dragons have also defeated the Jets twice during the regular season.
“We beat them twice, but they’re very well coached,” said Latin Academy coach Rocco Zizza. “They’re a little more senior than we are. We’re actually still developing, and I had to really focus on my team playing well as opposed to focusing on the other team. If we play well and pitch well, we’ll do well.”
Senior Sarah Essaibi and freshman Sydney McGrath, younger sister of former pitcher Rachel McGrath, split time on the mound during the Dragons’ 10-2 semifinal win against O’Bryant. The duo combined for 17 strikeouts, with McGrath taking the ball the first four innings and Essaibi the final three.
McGrath and Essaibi have posted similar stats: McGrath is averaging seven strikeouts and three walks a game, and Essaibi is averaging eight strikeouts and three walks a game.
Although both pitchers’ ERAs hover around 4.00, they are significantly lower in league play (McGrath 0.45 ERA, Essaibi 0.33 ERA), with Latin Academy facing 12 teams outside the city this season.
“I try to schedule the best teams possible,” Zizza said. “Prepare the kids if they want to play college softball, and also try to play softball at the highest level.”
Zizza admits this is the youngest team he’s ever coached, with only three seniors, but his philosophy is to get as many players – even the youngest – as much playing time as possible.
East Boston was also splitting time between two pitchers until junior Renee Elliott suffered a knee injury in the first week of May while playing Charlestown. Now, junior Julie Tirone is handed the ball every game.
“She’s come a long way,” East Boston coach Tom Elliott said of Tirone. “We’ve been through some bumps…She’s made herself quite the pitcher. She works at it every single day, and for someone’s who’s never picked up a ball as a pitcher while starting as a freshman, she took the responsibility and went with it.”
Tirone has improved her walk ratio and mound presence. Elliott knows Tirone won’t toss many strikeouts, but she does enough to keep the team in games. Tirone pitched a five-hitter in the Jets’ 19-4 semifinal victory over West Roxbury.
Powering the Jets’ offense and manning the infield are senior third baseman Paula Leuci and sophomore shortstop Mackenzie White. White, who is also East Boston’s RBI leader, went 3-for-4 with a triple in the semifinal win.
“She’s actually the one who steps to the plate and the kids know something big is gong to come out of that at bat,” Elliott said of White. “She’s a hard base runner, smart base runner, and has very good base running awareness.”
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