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No Field, No Problem. An Academic Powerhouse Can Also Play Ball.

Housed in a former pocketbook factory in Astoria, Queens, the tiny Baccalaureate School for Global Education is an elite public high school with a rigorous academic curriculum. Founded in 2002, it has only about 400 students, no gym, no playing fields and no auditorium.

Students who want to play on the school’s softball team, for instance, have to take two subway lines and then walk another 10 minutes to a remote practice field in Woodside. There is no bus to take them to away games against distant schools in Far Rockaway or Queens Village, and the players must hope the head coach arrives from her other job before the second inning, traffic permitting.

It is not the ideal setting for a sports powerhouse, but the Baccalaureate girls’ softball team, known as the Sting, is not only good; it dominates.

The squad, made up of a cohesive group of dedicated players, rolled through its 2024 schedule undefeated (14-0) and capped an improbable season by winning the Public Schools Athletic League 2A division championship, Baccalaureate’s first title in any sport.

“We are such a small school,” said Nina Davidson, a shortstop and the Sting’s top hitter. “To win it all, it’s an insane thing to wrap my head around.”

Baccalaureate is considered one of the best academic institutions in New York City, and it’s ranked the 10th best public high school in the state by U.S. News & World Report. Students are screened to get in and they take college-level classes during their final two years, with the goal of receiving an International Baccalaureate diploma.

The workload is demanding, and many of the softball players, like Ariella Fisher, a freshman catcher, do some of their homework on train rides to practices and games because, during softball season, they are often on a field from school dismissal until 6 p.m.

Ariella, who in the championship game had three hits and three runs batted in, is one of two first-year players who give the team even more reason to be optimistic about its future. The other is the pitcher Calla McGarvey, who earned 12 of the Sting’s 14 wins this season, including an 11-4 victory last Saturday over Queens Metropolitan High School, with the game played at St. John’s University.

Heather Page, Baccalaureate’s principal, was at the game and said the victory had spread joy throughout the school’s small community. “Their run this season, going undefeated,” Ms. Page said, “it’s so inspiring in terms of how you can do so much with so little, in terms of facilities.”

The old handbag factory closed about 20 years ago and Baccalaureate, originally housed with another school in Long Island City, Queens, moved to its current location in 2004. The New York City Department of Education leases the building from the original factory owner, Sharif Designs, which still operates a showroom on the top floor.

The only varsity sports that Baccalaureate offers are softball, basketball, soccer and track, but next year it will add table tennis. Though the school has no gym, it does have a small room with a treadmill and a couple of pieces of training equipment. But it is still short of classroom space, and any performance or schoolwide assembly takes place in its modest cafeteria.

“We say it’s the people that make us great, not the building,” Ms. Page said.

Ms. Page, who is in her second year in charge, always assumed that any athletic rewards would come in the from of participation, camaraderie, personal development and enjoyment. A citywide sports title was the terrain of the big high schools.

But she credited the head coach, Tamara Karcher, and her assistant, Steven Rabinowitz, a history teacher at Baccalaureate, for inspiring the best from the players, whose love of the game helped them work through the logistical obstacles.

Ms. Karcher teaches Spanish at Queens Technical High School. She said the city paid her extra for a few hours per week to coach during the season, but that is a fraction of the time she puts in coordinating practices, transportation, uniforms, schedules, lineups, scouting and fund-raising. Ms. Karcher usually brings the equipment to games, but she sometimes shows up late after her teaching job. Until she arrives, Mr. Rabinowitz is in charge.

Ms. Karcher said the biggest headache she faced was clearing people off fields before games when the team had a permit to use them. Sometimes there’s a soccer game happening, or kids are goofing off. Earlier this season, a man reading a book in a dugout refused to leave, claiming he was not bothering anyone. But it was a potentially unsafe situation.

“The cops got involved, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Ms. Karcher said. “It’s unpleasant for the girls to have to deal with that.”

But the players remained focused and defied expectations. In fact, Ms. Karcher and Mr. Rabinowitz even ramped up the challenge. When the coaches scanned their roster before the season, they suspected the team was too good for the 1A division, and asked the Public Schools Athletic League to move the Sting up to 2A, the middle rung.

The team still beat all comers, and is now on the cusp of a dynasty. Nina, the shortstop and star batter, will be back next year. Originally a baseball player, Nina was persuaded to play softball for a simple reason: Baccalaureate does not offer baseball. She also tore her anterior cruciate ligament in 2022 and missed all of last year, making this season’s accomplishments even sweeter.

Now she hopes to play in college, at Binghamton University or Fordham. She led the city in half a dozen offensive categories, and that would have included home runs, if Ms. Karcher had not stopped her at third base several times when the Sting already had huge leads. That included last week’s convincing title game.

“It was a relief when we won,” Ariella, the freshman catcher, said. “We didn’t know what it felt like to lose, and we didn’t want to blow it.”

To celebrate, the school held a small ceremony in the cafeteria on Wednesday, with a cake from Costco and a championship banner, which the players signed. Ms. Karcher took time off from her main job to be there, calling the championship the pinnacle of her career.

“In the end, we are teachers, and the goal is to help the kids develop as smart, confident, caring human beings,” she said. “When you see it happen, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s euphoria.”

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