Nicole Rivera couldn't have picked a better time to pitch the best game of her high school career.
The senior hurler, who's in her first season as Susan Wagner's ace, was in control from beginning to end as the Falcons registered a 2-1 PSAL triumph over visiting Tottenville Thursday in Sea View.
The defending PSAL city champion Falcons improved to 10-3 overall in Staten Island's PSAL division while dropping the 18-time defending Island champion Pirates (11-2) into a first-place tie with Port Richmond (a 10-0 winner over McKee/Staten Island Tech Thursday).
The Falcons also put themselves in position to tie the Pirates and Raiders for the Island division championship, although they'd need a lot to happen in order to do so. For starters, coach Marco Altieri's troops would need both Tottenville (at Curtis) and Port Richmond (vs. MSIT at West Shore LL) to lose their regular-season finales on Friday.
Then the Falcons would need to beat visiting New Dorp on Monday in Sea View.
Should either Tottenville or Port Richmond win Friday and the other team loses, the winner would be crowned Island champion by itself. If they both win Friday, the Pirates and Raiders would be co-champions.
Altieri, meanwhile, isn't overly concerned how things pan out in division play. The long-time coach loves the momentum the Falcons' win gives them with the city playoffs right around the corner.
"It was a playoff atmosphere out there today. We respect Tottenville and fortunately we played very well,'' said Altieri, who credited assistant Tim McAuliffe for installing a game-plan for Thursday's game. "We've been working hard at practice and putting in a plan that makes us as competitive as possible.''
PLAYER OF THE GAME
The honor, without question, goes to Rivera and not only because of the strong game she pitched against the Pirates.
But her pitching was superb as the right-hander allowed just one earned run on six hits, a walk and a hit batter in seven innings. She wasn't overpowering (three strikeouts), but she kept the Pirates off-balance as 14 of her 21 outs came in the air.
"I'll never forget this game. I never thought I'd be starting a game where we'd beat Tottenville,'' said the soft-spoken Rivera, who credited her change-up and inside fast ball for Thursday's success. "We played so much better defensively than we did last time against them and I just kept getting more confident as the game went on.''
"In her last two games, she's been outstanding,'' praised Altieri. "She was in control of the strike zone and just pitched with no fear.''
In addition, she also put down a solid bunt on a suicide squeeze that made it 2-0 after two innings.
Sophomore Nicole O'Rourke instantly gave the Falcons a boost leading off the home first. She roped a shot into the right-center gap and, after the ball rolled all the way to the fence, she legged out a homer for a 1-0 lead.
"I was just hoping to make contact,'' laughed O'Rourke, who finished 2 for 3. "(Tottenville starter Tea Panagakos) previously threw me two pitches on the outside corner so I was looking out there.
"Fortunately, I was able to hit the ball on the sweet spot.''
"That homer gave us a little confidence,'' added Altieri. "It gives your team a good feeling right away.''
The Falcons snapped a seven-game losing streak against Tottenville dating back to April 2, 2015 when they shutout the Pirates 5-0 in Huguenot ... Nadia Beck and Caitlin Anderson had SW's other hits while Anderson, Zoe Cadle and Gina Tabone had stolen bases for the Falcons ... SW first baseman Kennedy Mack robbed Panagakos of a leadoff hit in the top of the seventh when she stabbed a soft line drive ... Right-fielder Antonia Greco had three putouts ... Panagakos pitched well in defeat. The four-year varsity starter allowed just one earned run on four hits, no walks and seven strikeouts ... Isabella Fiumefreddo and Kaitlin Doran had two hits apiece for Tottenville. Pinch hitter Oliva Palumbo knocked in the Pirates' lone run with a two-out single in the sixth ... Fiumefredo also made a nice grab off a lone drive at shortstop.