Miller Place's Delaney Schleider crushes an RBI double to deep...

Miller Place's Delaney Schleider crushes an RBI double to deep centerfield against Marlboro, in the state Class A championship, Saturday, June 8, 2024. Credit: George A Faella

Miller Place is no doubt hoping this is just the beginning.

The Panthers fell, 4-1, to Marlboro (Section IX) in the state Class A softball championship game Saturday morning at Martha Avenue Recreational Park in Bellport.

After claiming its second Suffolk title and first Long Island championship, Miller Place found itself playing in a state final for the first time. And the Panthers got there without a single senior on their roster.

“This was an outstanding season,” Miller Place coach Matt Timmons said. “It’s really cool to be playing on the last day of the season. I’m incredibly proud of all of the girls and their families and friends for all the support they’ve showed.”

Miller Place (21-5) had no answer for Kalista Birkenstock, Marlboro’s speedy leadoff hitter. She worked a walk in the first inning and stole second and third before scoring on a squeeze bunt by Emma Jackson, giving the Dukes a 1-0 lead. She went 2-for-3 with two runs and three stolen bases. The shortstop also robbed Brooke Callaghan of a single with a spectacular diving catch in shallow leftfield in the fifth inning.

“She’s a weapon, offensively and defensively,” Timmons said. “Her speed was just elite. I think it was just an example of a really good player playing really well. I don’t know that there’s much more that we could’ve adjusted to.”

Trailing 2-0 in the third, Delaney Schleider launched a two-out double to the right-centerfield fence to drive in Laney Vomero to cut the Panthers’ deficit to one run. Marlboro (18-3) answered with two more runs in the fourth.

Leah Gunsett struck out eight in a two-hitter for Marlboro.

Miller Place junior Ava Zicchinelli went 1-for-3 with a double and a stolen base and allowed three earned runs with four strikeouts in seven innings.

“We have the best support system,” Zicchinelli said. “All of our coaches are amazing and we wouldn’t be here without them, but I’m so proud of us because we wouldn’t be here without any individual on this team.”

It was Miller Place’s first loss since May 6, when Sayville handed the Panthers their second loss in a row. In its following game, Miller Place trailed Kings Park by three runs in the sixth inning before rallying for a 4-3 win.

“It just didn’t seem like we were gonna win a game ever again,” Timmons said. “It’s a huge credit to their resilience and their passion for the game that somehow we willed our way to turn that around and then rolled all the way here.”

With no players graduating, Miller Place could have the same exact team next season.

“If we got this far with eighth-graders, freshmen, sophomores and juniors, the sky is the limit for us next year,” Zicchinelli said. “I think this was just the beginning for us.”


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