Blake, East Islip hang on to oust Longwood
East Islip pitcher Courtney Blake came out for the bottom of the seventh clutching a one-run lead but faced with the specter of the second, third and cleanup batters in the Longwood lineup.
Entering the seventh, the Lions' trio of Leah Mele, Audrey Miller and Kylie Spillett were a combined 5-for-8 off Blake.
Nobody said clinching the first county title in program history would be easy.
Blake wove her second 1-2-3 inning of the game as No. 4 East Islip defeated No. 2 Longwood, 6-5, in the deciding Game 3 of the Suffolk Class AA softball championship Friday.
"I've been playing with these seniors forever, since I was like 5," said Blake, one of five seniors on EI's roster. "And for us to all be together at this moment is just great."
Blake's seventh inning came after an already labor-intensive afternoon in which she allowed 11 hits. And in the seventh, she had to wait out a 10-minute delay while the umpires discussed whether Mele intentionally stuck out her foot out to draw a hit-by-pitch.
The umpires determined that Mele, the inning's leadoff hitter, made no attempt to avoid the pitch. They sent her back to the batter's box with a 1-and-2 count; she ended up lining out to centerfielder Alyssa Groneman.
"For Courtney to stay composed and make great pitches at big moments . . . she's a warrior," Redmen coach Jason McGowan said. "She's an absolute warrior."
East Islip tied the game in the seventh when Blake, who led off the inning with a double, scored on Shelby Heyward's RBI single. Pinch runner Kristina Rodriguez replaced Heyward, advanced to third on Alexa Martone's groundout and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
"Shelby is an absolute monster who has been doing it for us all year," McGowan said.
After Heyward's bat and Rodriguez's legs combined to give EI the lead, the onus fell on Blake. And with history on the line, the Redmen's ace had one more herculean effort left in that right arm.
"My mentality totally changed," Blake said. "I just went in there and threw as hard as I could."