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Erin Copozzi's clutch hits boost Center Moriches to LI 'B' title

Center Moriches 3B Erin Copozzi, facing, and teammates

Center Moriches 3B Erin Copozzi, facing, and teammates celebrate after their 13-6 win over Oyster Bay in the Long Island Class B softball championship at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Thursday, June 5, 2014. Credit: James Escher

In the heat of the moment on the softball field, Erin Copozzi of Center Moriches is the coolest girl in school.

"She really does have ice water in her veins," raved Red Devils coach Rich Roberts. "She's done this a couple of times before."

What Copozzi did was deliver a game-tying single with two outs in the top of the seventh to force extra innings, then singled to trigger an eight-run explosion in the 10th inning as Center Moriches outlasted Oyster Bay, 13-6, Thursday in the Long Island Class B championship at Mitchel Athletic Complex.

In winning what was also a state Southeast Regional semifinal, Center Moriches (21-2) advances to the regional final against the Section I vs. Section IX winner at 5 p.m. Saturday at Rhinebeck. Roberts said this is the furthest the school has ever advanced in the softball playoffs.

Copozzi had a lot to do with that. Oyster Bay (10-13) had scored two runs in the sixth to take a 5-4 lead, with Olivia Agostinelli (4-for-6, two RBIs) contributing an RBI single and scoring the other run.

In the top of the seventh, after two well-hit long drives to centerfield were caught, Caroline Casey (3-for-4, four runs) walked and stole second. Copozzi then drilled a clutch single to centerfield to tie it.

"I was just thinking, 'I need to hit the ball.' They were all counting on me," said Copozzi, who wound up 4-for-6 with three RBIs on the long day. "I turned the pressure into a hit. It felt amazing."

It also must have felt familiar. Roberts noted that she tied a game against Pierson/Bridgehampton on May 2 on a single with two outs in the seventh, then hit a walk-off double in the ninth.

"In a big spot, she comes through," Roberts said.

There was another big spot to prove his point. In the top of the 10th, which by international tiebreaker rule begins with a runner on second for each half- inning thereafter, Copozzi was the first batter. She lined a single to center and when Roberts held up the runner at third, by design she dashed for second to draw a throw and either get into a rundown or reach second. She did both, drawing a late throw as she reached second safely while the tiebreaking run scored.

The Red Devils then broke open the tense contest, sending up 12 batters in the inning. Casey had a two-run single and Megan Ricci had a pair of run-scoring hits in the inning, including a slick bunt.

"Our philosophy is to be aggressive and force defenses into mistakes," Roberts said.

Either that, or leave it up to Copozzi. Cool plan.

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