For a program that had never won a Suffolk championship, the Miller Place softball team sure is a group of quick learners.
Jessica Iavarone’s eighth strikeout of the game gave No. 2 Miller Place a 7-2 home win in Game 3 to take the best-of-three Suffolk A final series against No. 5 Bayport-Blue Point on Thursday and set off a joyous Panthers' celebration.
Immediately after the strikeout, a few Miller Place players started spraying silly string at each other. However, it wasn’t a player who got it the worst -- it was coach Matt Timmons. The first-year skipper was almost completely covered in string.
But that was OK. Why? Because seniors Sydney Stocken and Iavarone (who else) dumped a bucket of blue Gatorade on Timmons. Easy on, easy off.
"I’m just so proud and happy for them all," Timmons said with a huge smile. "They’ve been working for this for such a long time."
Miller Place (16-1) suffered its only loss of the season in Game 1 of the series, a 9-4 home defeat. But the Panthers rallied for a 12-5 win on Wednesday that set up the winner-take-all Game 3.
"It’s been very stressful," said junior Amelia DeRosa, who was 2-for-4 and could barely speak after nearly losing her voice yelling during the game. "It was finals week, too, and then we had four games in a row." (Miller Place beat Islip, 2-0, in eight innings on Monday.)
Charlotte Fuller (two hits) scored an unearned run in the top of the third to open the scoring for Bayport-Blue Point (13-4). (The Phantoms were undefeated against every team this season except Miller Place.)
But the Panthers added an unearned run in the bottom of the third to tie the score. Miller Place broke things open with a six-run fourth that included a bases-loaded walk by Julia Lent, a three-run triple by Iavarone, and an RBI single from DeRosa. It added another unearned run.
The Panthers’ leadoff hitter and senior Madison Power had a hit, reached base three times and scored two runs. Senior Madison Danin had the only other hit for Miller Place.
Stephanie McDonough had two of the Phantoms’ five hits, including an RBI single in the fifth off Iavarone, who recorded her 13th win of the season.
Now Miller Place gets one more chance for a postgame celebration when it meets Nassau A champ Mepham for the Long Island Championship at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Moriches Athletic Complex.
"This win," Iavarone said, "means everything to us."