A slap hitter who has never homered goes deep against the top pitcher on Long Island? Apparently birthday wishes really do come true.
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Amanda Ulzheimer has primarily been a slapper and bunter during her four years playing varsity softball, rarely getting a chance to swing for the fences. But against Clarke flamethrower Sarah Cornell on Thursday, she crushed a line drive down the rightfield line for her first varsity home run as Carey earned a 4-1 victory in Conference ABC-I. It happened to come on her 18th birthday, but . . .See alsoLike Newsday High School Sports on Facebook
“If you watched her running around the bases,” Carey coach Anthony Turco said, “she looked like a 5-year-old kid. It was an awesome sight.”
Ulzheimer excitedly rounded the bases and was mobbed at home plate by her equally ecstatic teammates. The senior second baseman returned to the dugout and joked that she now can retire and be happy.
“Of course I was joking with that,” Ulzheimer said with a laugh. “But I couldn’t be happier. I will forever remember this game.”
As will many of the Seahawks, who got vengeance by defeating the team that beat them in the county final last season and topping the pitcher who had thrown a perfect game against them three weeks ago to the day.
With that in mind, Brianna Pinto swung at the first pitch of the game on Thursday and lined a double up the middle. She came around to score on a bunt by Sam Romanello to give Carey a 1-0 lead.
“Going into the at-bat, I was thinking about taking a strike in the beginning, but my hands just went, so I just drove the ball through the zone,” Pinto said. “But going up there, I knew I had to be aggressive because she’s a great pitcher so you have to jump on her early.”
Pinto did the same in her next at-bat, fouling off two pitches before crushing an 0-and-2 pitch to left-centerfield for a solo home run that increased the lead to 2-0.
“I had confidence from the prior at-bat to swing,” said Pinto, who reached on an error in the fifth, stole third with Ulzheimer at the plate, and scored on a wild pitch for a 3-0 advantage.
Ulzheimer then homered.
“I’m usually a slap and bunter so I never thought this could happen,” she said. “I saw it and took the opportunity . . . I made sure to stay back in the box. I needed to see all her pitches. When I saw that pitch, it was in the perfect spot that I wanted it. I just went for it.”
Cornell fanned 15 batters and broke the all-time strikeout record in Long Island varsity softball with the 1,172nd strikeout of her six-year career. She allowed five hits and walked none, but Carey (8-1) handed Clarke (6-1) its first loss of the season.
“What makes her so dominant is how she mixes her pitches and her confidence on the mound,” Turco said of Cornell, who broke the record set by Kings Park’s Lindsay Taylor in 2011. “She’s done so much for the game at our level. You want to beat the best because she is the best.”
Carey pitcher Rebecca Vilchez didn’t allow a hit until Victoria Sferrazza’s bunt single in the sixth. Vilchez fielded a sharp chopper to the circle and started a 1-6-3 double play to end the game.
“It’s a huge win,” said Vilchez, who allowed two hits, walked two and struck out five. “I think it’s great for team morale and will give us great momentum.”
And the win was made extra special by a home run-hitting birthday girl.
“It’s way extra special,” Ulzheimer said. “It’s the best experience I ever had and it’s the best birthday present I could ever receive.”