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East Meadow rolls to L.I. title

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The instant Juliana Sanzone’s bat made contact in the top of the first inning of last Friday night’s Long Island Class AA championship softball game, she was confident once the ball landed East Meadow would have the early lead against Commack.

What Sanzone didn’t know at the time is sophomore pitcher Alexandra Kelly would make her moon shot over the fence in left at Eastport’s Athletic Complex stand up. Kelly allowed only three hits and recorded 19 outs as the Lady Jets captured their third consecutive L.I. crown with a 10-0 victory.

“The home run felt amazing and it definitely energized us,” said Sanzone, who a week earlier cracked a pair of dingers in the opening game of the Nassau Class AA best-of-three championship series against Oceanside. “It showed that it’s not impossible to hit off their pitcher and our bats came alive,” she added. “And Alexandra carried us through the night.”

East Meadow (19-4) batted around in the third and gave Kelly five more runs in the bank. Senior Amy Mallah had a two-run single with the bases loaded and junior Amanda Thompson followed with a two-run double against Commack pitcher Emmi Katz, who was lights-out during the team’s run to the Suffolk Class AA title as the No. 10 seed.

“These girls know how to win and they deserve all the credit,” East Meadow coach Stew Fritz said. “They’re great ballplayers and they’re great kids.

“Sanzone got us off to a great start and after some big two-out hits we were off to the races,” he added. “Winning a third Long Island championship in a row is special.”

The Lady Jets advance to their third straight Class AA state semifinals, where they’ll meet Corning-Painted Post this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Moreau Recreational Park in South Glens Falls. With a semifinal victory, East Meadow would play later that afternoon for a chance at its second state title in three years.

“The way last season ended has given us extra motivation,” said Sanzone, who went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and drove in junior Jenna Laird with a sac fly to cap the scoring in the sixth. “We want it bad,” she added. “We never stop so we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”

Catcher Rosanna Cuttone got the third-inning rally started with a double. Laird singled one out later, and Sanzone followed with a walk to load the bases. Pinch-runner Kaitlyn Belfield and Laird (2-for-4, two runs) scored on Mallah’s rope double up the middle to make it 3-0. Thompson (2-for-4, two runs) doubled home Sanzone and Mallah, and then scored on Grace Pohalski’s two-out single for a 6-0 lead.

In the fifth, East Meadow increased its lead to 9-0. Kelly helped her own cause with a two-run single and was on the back end of a double-steal when Isabella Shepherd swiped home.

Commack, which defeated defending Suffolk champ Longwood twice to win the county title, had just two runners reach third base against Kelly.

“Alex has done a phenomenal job,” Fritz said. “She grew up real fast. She had a little rough patch in the middle of the season, but she got through it and she’s really matured into an excellent pitcher.”

The Lady Jets, who won the state title in 2017, lost in the state semis last spring to Ballston Spa, 6-5.

“I hope we have two more wins in us,” Fritz said. “Why not us? We’ll be good representatives of Long Island. We’ll show up.”