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Gianna Azzato’s clutch three-run homer gives East Meadow a title

East Meadow defeated East Islip, 5-3, to win the Long Island Class AA championship at St. Joseph's (LI) on Friday, June 2, 2017. (Credit: Newsday/Owen O'Brien)

Gianna Azzato may be the only person on East Meadow’s softball team that wasn’t thinking about a home run when the senior approached the plate trailing by two runs with two runners on base in the seventh inning.

“I kind of just went up there thinking base hit, there’s runners in front of me, move them over,” Azzato said. “Wasn’t thinking home run. Not even in the slightest. Just get on.”

She accomplished her goal of moving the runners over, but they could take all the time they wanted after Azzato launched a three-run home run over the leftfield fence at St. Joseph’s (LI) to give East Meadow a one-run lead in the seventh inning in its 5-3 victory over East Islip in the Long Island Class AA championship game / Southeast Regional final Friday night.

“It’s amazing because we knew she had it in her,” said Jenna Laird, who singled with one out in the seventh and scored. “She does it every game. We knew it was going to happen and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was gone and everyone else probably knew it was gone.”

East Meadow (20-2) trailed 3-1 entering the seventh inning, before Laird’s one-out single started the rally. Christina Loeffler drew a walk in the following at-bat before Azzato’s home run. The Jets added their final run on Sam Reyes’ sacrifice fly to drive in Amy Mallah after Julianna Sanzone’s double.

“We all were just saying this was our inning,” said Laird, who had an RBI double to drive in Jess Marsala in the first inning. “We had a feeling this was going to be our inning and it turned out to be our inning. We came through.”

Loeffler earned the complete-game victory in the circle. After starting off the season as the team’s No. 4 hitter, Loeffler said coach Stew Fritz switched her and Azzato early in the season.

“It was amazing,” Loeffler said. “My coach put her there for a reason.”

East Meadow, which last won a state championship in 2014, advances to the state semifinals against Victor (Rochester) in South Glens Falls at 11:30 a.m. on June 10.

East Islip (23-2) opened a 2-1 lead in the first inning on singles from Courtney Greene and Lauren Crawford to drive in Allison Dell’Orto and Alise Colandro. Dell’Orto delivered East Islip’s final run on a single to drive in Justine Rizzo, who tripled in the second.

But it was Azzato’s ability to produce in the pressure moment that keeps East Meadow’s season going.

“You never see that kid lose control,” Fritz said, “and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

None more than his senior.

“I definitely did not want that to be my last at-bat,” Azzato said. “It was just amazing.”

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