Christina Hamdan had the answer in her back pocket.
Kelle Lalier was about to walk to the plate for the most important at-bat of the season during Massapequa's 6-5 win over defending state champion East Meadow in the Nassau Class AA softball quarterfinals Friday.
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"I started freaking out," Lalier said, "because I popped up the last time and I was like, 'Christina, I don't know if I can do this!' I wasn't really focused, I guess. I was nervous. I was like, 'Oh, no, I have to do something really big here.' And she reassured me."
Hamdan, a senior flex who plays centerfield, is called the Chiefs' "motivational and inspirational leader" by Massapequa coach Bret Malone. Before every game, she writes down the team they are playing and an inspirational quote on a piece of paper and reads it to her teammates before first pitch. She then keeps the paper in her back pocket during the game.
"Today's quote was about being you versus no, you versus them, you versus can't, you versus history, you versus the odds," Hamdan said. "It was about not making excuses and believing in yourself."
So she told Lalier to believe in herself because the entire team believed in her. With two outs, the bases full, and Massapequa trailing 5-3, Lalier ripped a triple to the rightfield corner to clear the bases and give the Chiefs a 6-5 lead.
"I was looking for a ball in my zone, nothing too outside, nothing too inside," Lalier said. "I got the perfect pitch, I really didn't think too much about it. I saw it, hit it, and the rest took care of itself. Low and behold, I hit a triple. Christina was definitely my emotional support for that."
So Lalier was a hero with her bat, and Hamdan with her words.
With a runner on first in the bottom of the inning, Krista Carcaterra got the strikeout to end the game, setting off a wild celebration for Massapequa, which had lost to East Meadow in the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons.
"It shows our determination," Carcaterra said of the comeback win. "The score means nothing to us. We could be losing 20-0 and we're just going to take it pitch by pitch. When we do that, I know we'll do what it takes to win."
Lalier, who went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, and Amanda Gallo each had RBI singles in the third inning to even the score at 3.
Crista San Antonio, who went 3-for-4, led off the top of the fifth with a home run over the fence in left to put No. 6 East Meadow (10-10) back on top, 4-3. Christina Loeffler (2-for-3) homered in the sixth to increase the lead to 5-3. That set the stage for Lalier.
"The last six games, she has been our hottest hitter," Malone said of Lalier. "She used to be a dead pull hitter, now she's spraying the ball all over the place and obviously that paid big dividends for us today. She finds the gaps, and no better time to do that than bases loaded, two out in a playoff game."
Third-seeded Massapequa (13-6) advances to play No. 2 Oceanside in a best-of-three semifinal series, which begins on Monday.
That's when Hamdan will once again reach into her pocket, take out that piece of paper, and read a new inspirational quote to her teammates.
"I keep them all," she said. "I have 18. We played 18 league games, we have 18 girls on the team. Hopefully when we get to counties, I will give one to each girl and we will all have one in our back pocket."