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Diving catch sparks Long Beach to playoff win

Long Beach shortstop Kelsey Larson throws to second

Long Beach shortstop Kelsey Larson throws to second base for an out in the top of the fourth inning of a Nassau softball Class AA first-round playoff game against Farmingdale at Long Beach High School on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Credit: James Escher

Hey! That was a heck of a catch!

Kelsey Larson walked off the field after she had just made a diving catch to end the top of the fourth inning during Long Beach's 8-2 win over Farmingdale in the Nassau Class AA first-round playoff game on Wednesday. As she huddled with her team by the third base line, the opposing coach came out of the dugout and walked all the way to the pitcher's mound.

"Hey!" he shouted in Larson's direction. "That was a heck of a catch!"

It's not very often that a coach goes out of their way to compliment an opposing player -- in the middle of a game -- after a game-changing catch in the playoffs.

But, in this case, Larson deserved it because, well, it was a heck of a catch.

With runners on first and third and Farmingdale up, 2-0, Sarah Pezzotti scorched a line drive up the middle. Larson, a senior shortstop bound for Dowling, raced to her left and made a full-extension diving catch over the second base bag to save a run and end the inning.

"I wanted the ball hit to me," she said, calling the catch the best she has made in her high school career. "After that, I could tell by the look on everyone's faces that we were ready to go and we were ready to get our bats going. Without a doubt, I knew we were going to win the game."

They did.

In the bottom of the inning, the Long Beach bats came alive. Kelsey's younger sister, Tonianne, led off with a double and scored on a two-run homer to left-centerfield by freshman Paulina Cardona.

That was a heck of a hit!

"I knew we were down and I didn't want it to be our last game," Cardona said. "I wanted to give it my all for the seniors. I just got really mad and swung."

After Rachel Brenner walked and Meredith Fagan singled, Marisa Scandole knocked in the go-ahead run with a bunt single to give Long Beach a 3-2 lead.

"I was thinking I have to do what I have to do to get the ball down, get the run in, and get the team going," Scandole said.

Cardona finished 2-for-3, including an RBI single in the fifth that pushed the lead to 4-2. Kelsey Larson went 2-for-4 and added a two-run single in the sixth for a 7-2 lead. Fifth-seeded Long Beach (12-8) advances to play at No. 4 Mepham on Friday.

"I've been on team five years now," Kelsey Larson said, "and I'm yet to have a county championship, yet to even be in a county final. I think this is the best team I've ever played on and I just have a really good feeling."

Michelle Marino went 2-for-4 with an RBI for No. 12 Farmingdale (14-4). Marino scored on an error in the third to give the Dalers a 1-0 lead. Her RBI groundout in the second increased the lead to 2-0. Grace Rosenberg came in to pitch with two outs in the fourth for Long Beach and tossed 3 1/3 shutout innings - the first out being Larson's catch - to seal the win.

Farmingdale threatened again in the top of the sixth, putting runners on second and third. Pezzotti then drilled a line drive toward second where Scandole, a co-captain along with Kelsey Larson, made a diving catch to end the inning.

"Those were the two critical plays and if we don't make them, who knows what happens," Long Beach coach Carmine Verde said. "For Kelsey, that's right up there as one of the top plays she's ever made. And then we had Marisa match her with an amazing play on the other side."

Hey, that was also a heck of a catch!

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