Just when they thought they were out of it . . . the Center Moriches softball team wasn't.
Trailing 5-1 entering the seventh inning against Highland High School in the Class B Southeast regional final Saturday, the team had little hope left. Then things changed in a hurry.
The Red Devils rallied for four runs, including a game-tying single by senior captain Tori Fahie to drive in pinch-runner Holly Breutsch, forcing the game into extra innings.
"At that moment, I felt like I was on the top of the world," said Fahie, who finished 2-for-3 with a walk.
With a deafening crowd at the bottom of the eighth, Erin Creen hit a game-winning ground ball to drive in Kayla Hujber, who slid into a bang-bang, dropped-ball play at home plate as Center Moriches won a thriller, 6-5.
"This feels amazing," Creen said. "I've never cried so much after a softball game."
At the start of the eighth, Hujber bunted for a hit, Cierra Smith singled to left and Holly Breutsch bunted both girls over, giving Creen an opportunity with one out.
Creen described the final play of the game in two words: small ball. The sacrifice ground ball to the left made all the difference. "I was at the plate and there was a ton of pressure on me," Creen said. "But I just kept thinking that I really wanted to win."
And the result of Creen's clutch hit in extra innings? These girls will be going to their first state championship in school history. Yup, they're gonna dance.
"I'm still digesting it to be completely honest with you," coach Rich Roberts said. "It was a phenomenal victory."
Center Moriches knows what it feels like to come back. Its previous game was a 13-6 victory against Oyster Bay in the Long Island Class B championship game in which the team scored eight runs in the 10th.
"We had been there before," Roberts said. "The circumstances behind this win are very awesome."
Let's break it down:
First Suffolk County title since 2004 and first state appearance in school history? Not bad for a team that fell in the county championship game each of the previous five seasons.
And this season, they've returned with a vengeance.
Fahie admitted stamping her ticket to states feels like a weight has been lifted, and she had three words for Creen as the team was rushing the plate after thevictory.
"I ran up to Erin and said I love you," Fahie said. "This team is a family and we will never give up."
Daydreaming about states has now become a reality.
"Heading to states has been a goal that we've had for some time," Roberts said. "To make it this far has been very rewarding."
Center Moriches will play in Queensbury at 9:30 a.m. Saturday against Eden High in the semifinals.
"We never give up and I believe in my team," Creen said. "I believe that we can go all the way."