Samantha Valentine leads Longwood to first Class AA softball title
The ball that was caught for the final out will ultimately sit on the Valentine family mantle.
The plaque that was centered in a team photo will ultimately hang on the wall at their school.
The season that was opened on a cold March day will ultimately end in the record book.
Shortly after No. 3 Longwood defeated host No. 1 Bay Shore, 11-4, Saturday to capture the program's first Class AA county softball championship, Samantha Valentine clutched the game ball, Taylor Crofts gripped the championship plaque and 17 of their teammates held part of the historic victory in their own way.
"It's a great feeling to accomplish this as a team," Valentine said. "We can leave high school knowing that we accomplished something great."
As a constant reminder of that accomplishment, Valentine says she'll keep the ball that was hit to leftfielder Audrey Miller for the final out displayed in a case at her house.
Valentine was a worthy recipient of the memento after going 3-for-5 with two RBIs, allowing one earned run and picking up her second straight win against a Bay Shore team that had previously lost only once.
Noel Lent hit a go-ahead single to drive in Crofts and give Longwood a 4-3 lead in the fifth. Valentine added a two-run single and Alexis Kopel followed with a triple to deep left to bring home two more runs. Madison Rappold, who hit an RBI single in the fourth to tie the score at 3, capped the inning with an RBI groundout to put Longwood ahead 9-3.
Lent went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, including a two-run single in the seventh. Crofts, Miller and Alex Russo each had two hits.
"This feels great because we worked so hard for this, day in and day out, and we finally got it," Russo said.
The loss brought an end to the brilliant high school career of Courtney Syrett, who went 2-for-4 in her last game before moving on to the University of Mississippi. Syrett drilled a two-run triple to the gap in left-centerfield and took home on an error to put Bay Shore (22-3) in front 3-2 in the third inning.
It also marked the final game for Michelle DeVito, who was pitching for the fourth consecutive day, and fellow seniors Killeen Martin, Breana Susa and Giana Panariello.
"It hurts to know that's the last time I'll ever take the field with those girls," said the Harvard-bound Panariello. "But it was one heck of a ride for every single one of us."
Kylie Spillett opened the scoring in the third with a two-run single for Longwood (21-3), which made it to the finals for the first time last season before falling to East Islip.
"I'm kind of speechless right now," Spillett said. "This year we knew we had to go a step further and we did. Now we're just going to keep going."
"It took years upon years of hard work from everyone to actually get this done," Lent said. "We knew from the beginning of the season that it was all or nothing. Our quote was, 'This is our time,' and it really was."
Now the legacy that was created will ultimately live forever at Longwood.