Nicole Sciara really got a hold of one in the third inning, and she put everything she had into it.

"She does that so often, we've gotten used to it," teammate Vanessa Juengerkes said. "Nicki is known for that."

But enough about hugs.

Sciara also hit a home run!

She drilled a three-run shot in the third inning as No. 5 Islip beat fourth-seeded Miller Place, 6-2, Monday in the first round of the Suffolk Class A softball playoffs.

As Sciara rounded the bases, teammates rushed from the dugout to greet her at home plate, and she met each of them with a big, warm hug. That ritual has earned her the nickname "Nicki Love."

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"I probably gave about 1,000 hugs after that homer," said Sciara, still giddy after the game. "I just love hugging people."

Coincidentally, her homer hugged the foul pole.

With Juengerkes and Alexis Freudenberg on base, Sciara pulled an off-speed pitch and the ball easily cleared the fence in leftfield, but it stayed just fair down the line for a 6-1 lead.

"When they said it was fair," Sciara said, "I felt so excited."

Her teammates felt it, too -- literally.

Islip (15-6) erupted for six runs in the third in support of Juengerkes, who allowed seven hits and four walks but consistently escaped trouble.

"I wasn't hitting the inside corner, so I relied on my screwball," said Juengerkes, who had three strikeouts in the complete game.

Miller Place threatened again in the sixth but managed only a run, and shortstop Sam Seeger's spectacular diving catch of a line drive up the middle ended the inning.

"It was all instinct; I don't even remember moving," said Seeger, who went parallel to the ground on a full-extension dive that had teammates calling her "Superman" afterward.

Islip visits defending champion Sayville in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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Miller Place (15-6) struck in the first inning, loading the bases with a double and two infield singles. Sabrina Stransky's one-out bloop single to center scored Tori Carlo, but Juengerkes got out of the jam.

Islip's Jamie Dolce walked to lead off the third and scored on a Juengerkes groundout to tie it at 1. Freudenberg's RBI single put them ahead 2-1, and Ginger Sherry later scored on an error.

That preceded Sciara's blast . . . and bear hugs.

It begged the question: Is she a better hitter or hugger? "They're neck-and-neck," Juengerkes said with a laugh. "She's a really good hitter, but her hugs are awesome. Today was perfect -- she was great at both."

That's something they can all get their arms around.