With East Meadow clinging to a two-run lead and one out away from a state softball championship, Liverpool’s Dana Nicoletti lifted a shallow fly to left that had endless possibilities with the bases loaded.
Lady Jets pitcher Kerri Shapiro was afraid it would drop for a game-tying hit, catcher Madison West braced for a play at the plate, and center fielder Marisa SanAntonio took a few steps toward left as Victoria Bova made a beeline for the ball. Bova, who prior to the top of the seventh inning told SanAntonio it was her dream to make a diving catch to end a game, did just that to secure East Meadow’s 3-1 victory in last Saturday afternoon’s state Class AA title game at Moreau Field in South Glens Falls.
“I didn’t know if it was fair or foul, but I know Marisa always has my back so I went for it,” Bova said. “I got a good jump and dove. After I rolled over and still had the ball in my glove, I looked up and saw my teammates charging at me.
“It was unbelievable,” the sophomore added. “I didn’t want to let my teammates down. Everyone played their hearts out.”
It’s the first-ever state championship for East Meadow (21-2), which reached the state final last spring but came up short against Cicero-North Syracuse.
“Having last year’s experience was huge,” said Shapiro, who allowed three hits, walked five, struck out five and also blasted a solo homer over the fence in left in the third to make it 3-0. “We were definitely more comfortable this time around.”
The Lady Jets got to Liverpool pitcher Peyton Bellrose in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with seniors on a walk to SanAntonio, a bunt single by Claire Travis, and a walk to Shapiro. West then drove in SanAntonio and Travis with a double to the gap in left-center for a 2-0 lead. “Scoring in the first inning was important, but at the same time we had a long way to go and needed to treat it like a 0-0 game,” West said. “We couldn’t get overconfident.”
Shapiro, who blanked Clarence, 3-0, in the morning semifinals and struck out 10 in the process, carried a shutout into the sixth inning of the championship game before Liverpool scratched across a run. In the seventh, she allowed a leadoff single but retired the next two batters to bring the Lady Jets one out from the crown. But back-to-back walks loaded the bases and brought East Meadow head coach Stew Fritz out of the dugout.
“Coach just told me to relax and have fun,” Shapiro said.
Nicoletti, a lefty, fought off Shapiro’s 1-1 delivery and sent a flare to left that hung up just enough for Bova to turn a dream into reality.
“Everyone had different angles, but I knew Victoria had it,” SanAntonio said. “It’s such an amazing feeling. I don’t know how to explain it.”
In the semifinals, the Lady Jets scored all of their runs in the top of the fourth against Clarence pitcher Katrina Buzkowski, who was coming off a perfect game. Junior Ashley Smith capped the rally with a two-run single.
“I’ve got mixed emotions,” Shapiro said. “I’m sad that it’s over but I’m so happy because we went as far as we could and accomplished everything we wanted.”