Bellmore JFK starting pitcher Lia Fong delivers a pitch against...

Bellmore JFK starting pitcher Lia Fong delivers a pitch against Clarence in the New York State Girls Class AA semifinals, Friday, June 7, 2024. Credit: George A Faella

Lia Fong has been the driving force behind Bellmore JFK’s historic postseason run.

Facing the reigning state champions didn’t faze her one bit.

The senior struck out seven and allowed two runs on seven hits in a complete game, but it wasn’t enough as Clarence defeated the Cougars, 2-0, in the Class AA softball state semifinals Friday at Martha Avenue Recreational Park in Bellport.

Fong, who transferred from St. Anthony’s for her senior season, helped Bellmore win its first Nassau County and Long Island titles.

“Perfect timing,” Bellmore JFK coach Krista Thorn said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of her and I’m blessed to have had her, even just for one season.”

“I’ve been really close with these girls since I was really young, so coming back and having the season we had has been really fun,” Fong added. “The girls have been so welcoming to me and the coaches have been great. Over the course of the season, we just kept getting better and better.”

Fong dueled in the circle with Rutgers commit Ella Harrison, who struck out 18 in a two-hitter.

“She throws drop balls, which you don’t see very often,” Thorn said of Harrison. “She gets ahead and she throws the drops at different locations. We also chased a lot of pitches, which didn’t help our cause. But she’s a very, very good pitcher.”

Harrison got Clarence (Section VI) on the board with a two-run home run in the top of the first, but Fong settled in shortly after. She picked up two strikeouts in the second inning before striking out the side in the third.

Fong hit a double off Harrison in the first, but Bellmore went hitless until the sixth, when Sam Kapitansky hit a two-out single.

Clarence (18-4) will face Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Section II) in the final at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Martha Avenue.

Bellmore JFK entered the semifinals having won eight of its last nine games dating back to May 6. The Cougars finished the season 14-11 and with a county and Long Island trophy.

“It builds the program tremendously,” Thorn said. “It makes the community better and it puts us on the map. It gives us a stepping stone to use to get back to this spot every year. The bar has been set very high, but now we know we can do it.”

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