Claire O’Brien considered herself lucky.
Despite being removed from the pitching circle less than 24 hours prior after allowing five runs — mostly unearned — in the eighth inning with a chance to clinch the CHSAA softball championship, O’Brien knew she’d be back Thursday in Game 3. And she was certain next time would be different.
“Most pitchers don’t get a shot at redemption,” O’Brien said, “so I was just so happy to have a chance to prove to everybody that I was capable of bringing a championship.”
O’Brien tossed a six-hitter, allowing two runs with two strikeouts and no walks to deliver Sacred Heart’s first CHSAA softball championship in program history with a 4-2 victory over Kellenberg at Hofstra.
No. 2 Kellenberg (16-10) defeated No. 1 Sacred Heart (17-3), 5-1, Wednesday to force Thursday’s winner-take-all championship. But Kayla Fitzpatrick said it was easy to get the previous loss out of the players’ heads.
“We were thirsty for it,” said Fitzpatrick, who hit triples in both championship games, hugging the championship plaque. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It wasn’t that difficult for us to push it out of ourselves and get it.”
Sacred Heart took a 1-0 lead in the first when Marissa Braito scored on Janae Barracato’s groundout. Kellenberg responded with a sacrifice fly by Kacie Badolato and Alexa Russell followed with an RBI single to take a 2-1 lead after three innings.
But Sacred Heart fought back. In the fourth, Anna Shamroth doubled and later scored on Emma Nidermaier’s single to tie the game at 2. Braito slapped the next pitch up the middle for an RBI single to score Lauren Wasserman and give Sacred Heart a 3-2 advantage.
“I knew I had to get the run in one way or another,” Braito said. “We each have a role on this team and we have the best girls for each position.”
O’Brien, who was named MVP, took over from there, allowing only two baserunners in the final three innings. She also had help from her defense throughout the game, including Nidermaier’s diving catch in leftfield, which recorded the 21st and final out.
“We’ve worked so hard all season and Kellenberg played a great game,” Nidermaier said. “So I said to myself before ‘I’m going to dive for anything’ and then I got a chance to and it’s unreal.”
Clean-up hitter Michaela Ernst, one of Sacred Heart’s three seniors, added, “It’s unbelievable. To have your last year go out in such a bang, the fact that we haven’t won ever in the history of Sacred Heart, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
After the game, Kellenberg’s Kaitlin Geary was awarded CHSAA Pitcher of the Year and Kelly Rasulo won Player of the Year.
Sacred Heart continues its season in the CHSAA state semifinal at Preller Field in Queens at 2 p.m. Tuesday.