Amy Mallah couldn’t pick a better spot to notch her first hit of the night.
“I knew I had to get that hit to win it for my team,” said Mallah, who hit a sharp walk-off single up the middle to lead No. 8 East Meadow over No. 11 Longwood, 6-5, in the Long Island Class AA softball championship game at Hofstra on Saturday night.
An early 5-1 deficit ultimately wouldn’t prevent the defending Class AA New York State champion Jets (19-5) from returning to the state semifinals on June 9, where they’ll face No. 2 Ballston Spa at Moreau Recreational Park.
Down four runs in the third, winning pitcher Christina Loeffler buckled down and shut out the Lions over the final four innings.
“We were all a little nervous,” Loeffler said. “Sometimes we have a bad inning but we always pull through.”
A two-run error by Longwood evened the score at 5 in the fourth after Juliana Sanzone’s two-out, two-run single for East Meadow cut the deficit to 5-3 in the third.
Longwood (21-3) threatened to score the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh by loading the bases with a walk, infield single and hit-by-pitch, but Loeffler worked out of trouble by forcing a groundout to shortstop to end the inning.
The Jets proceeded to put runners on the corners with one out in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a walk by Sam Reyes followed by Loeffler’s single to center. Mallah then did the honors.
For Sanzone, singing is surprisingly the key to maintaining composure.
“I actually just sing a song when I’m at bat,” said Sanzone, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “I relax, sing and let my bat do the rest. Usually Disney or something like that.”
East Meadow coach Stew Fritz acknowledged the impact that playing in high-leverage situations had on his team’s come-from-behind victory.
“I told the team that we’re championship-tested,” Fritz said. “I told them we needed to score a run every inning when we trailed 4-0.”