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East Meadow wins state Class AA softball championship over Binghamton

East Meadow players go wild after 1-0 win

East Meadow players go wild after 1-0 win against Binghamton in state Class AA championship in South Glens Falls, N.Y., Saturday, June 10, 2017. Photo Credit: Hans Pennink

SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Gianna Azzato has won a state championship in softball before.

Azzato was brought up to the East Meadow varsity before the playoffs in 2014 and experienced the Jets’ state title run from the bench as a wide-eyed freshman.

Chances are, the senior second baseman enjoyed this journey a little more. Azzato knocked in the game’s only run, and the Jets defense and the right arm of Christina Loeffler guided East Meadow to a 1-0 win against Binghamton in the state Class AA final at Moreau Recreational Park on Saturday.

This is the second state title in the past four seasons for East Meadow (22-2).

“It is so surreal,” said Azzato, whose single brought in Jess Marsala in the first inning. “I can’t describe this feeling. I can’t believe we actually won.”

Loeffler was also a big reason why the Jets did win. The junior got out of bases-loaded jams with strikeouts in the first and third innings. Binghamton — the defending state AA champs — stranded seven runners in the first three innings and nine for the game.

“I knew if my team could get a run, I could hold them to no runs,” said Loeffler, who scattered six hits with three strikeouts in the title game, and pitched 13 1⁄3 of the 14 innings the Jets played Saturday.

East Meadow pounded Victor, 17-10, in the semifinal game earlier Saturday. Freshman outfielder Julianna Sanzone had four hits, including a three-run homer, with six RBIs and three runs. Emily Shurina (who also homered) and senior Sam Reyes both added two hits and two RBIs for East Meadow, which had 16 hits in the opener.

That’s quite a contrast to the title game, when the Jets had just three hits.

“Our defense and our offense are strong,” junior catcher Sara Polansky said. “We hit the ball well, and we back each other up. We’re capable of winning in different ways.”

The Jets showed their championship mettle in the fifth when Binghamton threatened to score with a runner on second. The Patriots’ Sabrina Anderson hit a one-out single to rightfielder Reyes, who threw a bullet on the line to the catcher, Polansky.

A Binghamton runner was eventually caught in a rundown and tagged out by third baseman Amy Mallah halfway down the third-base line. Binghamton’s Anderson never stopped running and was headed toward an unoccupied third base. East Meadow’s leftfielder Sanzone sprinted more than 50 yards to cover the base. Mallah turned and threw to Sanzone, who tag tagged out Anderson for the rare 9-2-5-7 inning-ending double play.

“I was so relieved,” Sanzone said, “I yelled, ‘Let’s go! This is so possible. A title is within our fingertips.’ ”

Loeffler retired the final six batters she faced, including a fly ball to Marsala in centerfield, which sent the Jets into a frenzied pile halfway between the pitching circle and second base.

“A good conductor needs a great orchestra, and we have a great orchestra,” said Jets coach Stew Fritz, who was also at the helm in 2014.

East Meadow caps an amazing season, with an even better postseason that included two wins over Long Beach in the Nassau championship series, a thrilling 5-3 come-from-behind win against East Islip in the Long Island title game that featured a thrilling three-run homer in the seventh by Azzato, not to mention Saturday’s unique wins.

“This says we are a special group of girls,” said Azzato, with a title medal around her neck. “Every one of us brings something special to this team.”

And another championship.

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