Two-time defending Nassau and Long Island Class AA softball champion East Meadow took a little bit of a roller-coaster ride to the Conference AA-I title this spring but enters the playoffs on a high note.
“We’ve had some ups and downs and I truly believe anyone can win the county this year,” said seventh-year coach Stew Fritz, who’s guided the Lady Jets to four L.I. championships and a pair of state crowns. “There’s not a large difference between the top two conferences,” he noted. “A bunch of teams in Conference II have won crossovers.”
East Meadow endured a stretch of four conference games between April 16-29 that saw it drop all but one, thus opening the door for Oceanside or Farmingdale to snag the top spot. However, Fritz’s club responded once the calendar flipped to May and will look to make another deep playoff run.
“I’m blessed to coach another great group of girls,” Fritz said. “They come to work every day. They get dirty even in practice and they give everything they’ve got when they step on the field.
“They realize, with the benchmark we’ve set over the years, we’re going to get everyone else’s best punch,” he added. “Teams really celebrate when they beat us.”
The Lady Jets (13-4 overall, 10-3 in AA-I) won their first five conference games before the win streak ended at home against Farmingdale. Then, after a victory over Plainview, they lost to Oceanside for the first time in five years and were beaten by AA-II’s Long Beach. “I didn’t know how the season was going to go after those losses,” Fritz said. “We made a few small tweaks and so far things are working better.”
East Meadow closed the regular season with five consecutive wins, including an 11-0 non-league victory at St. Anthony’s on May 7. “If we can bottle up that game and take it into the playoffs, I think we’ll be in good shape,” Fritz said. Sophomore pitcher Alex Kelly got back on track with five superb innings, while outfielder Juliana Sanzone (.571 average) went 3-for-4 and drove in five runs.
Sanzone is part of a highly talented junior class that includes shortstop Jenna Laird, who is batting over .630 and leads the team with 34 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Senior Amy Mallah (third base) is raking to the tune of .519 with team bests in home runs (10) and RBIs (34.) “There’s nothing Jamie can’t do, and Amy is as good a high school third baseman as I’ve seen,” Fritz said.
Junior Stephanie Christoforatos (.340 avg.) handles the leadoff spot and patrols center field, junior Amanda Thompson (.444, three homers) is thriving at first base, and junior twins Rosanna Cuttone (catcher) and Julia Cuttone (left field/pitcher) fill vital roles. Kelly, who had a sub-2.00 ERA prior to May, has helped her own cause with a .320 batting average.
“We’re going to have to earn everything we get,” Fritz said.