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Kellenberg’s Kaitlin Geary helps force Sacred Heart showdown

Kellenberg's Kaitlin Geary (14) pitches against Sacred Heart

Kellenberg's Kaitlin Geary (14) pitches against Sacred Heart Academy during the CHSAA softball finals at Hofstra on Wednesday May 25, 2016. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Kaitlin Geary wasn’t ready to end her Kellenberg softball career Wednesday. The senior threw 15 innings and recorded two victories to ensure her season continued. But don’t think she’s done yet.

“Arm feels great,” Geary said. “I have to ice still because you always have to ice, but my arm feels great. I could go again. Let’s do it again.”

She’ll get her opportunity when No. 2 Kellenberg (16-9) and No. 1 Sacred Heart (16-3) meet in a winner-take-all CHSAA championship game Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Hofstra University after the Firebirds defeated Sacred Heart, 5-1, in eight innings in the first game of the final.

Even more impressive about Geary’s gutty seven-hit, five- strikeout complete game is it came less than 30 minutes after pitching Kellenberg to a 7-4 victory over St. John the Baptist in the semifinals.

“She was amazing,” said Kacie Badolato, who caught Geary all 15 innings. “All day she was fire. It was so great and I just fed off it.”

Badolato sparked the Firebirds’ five-run eighth inning after driving in Victoria Sapraicone with an RBI single to take a 1-0 lead (the international tiebreaker rule has extra innings begin with a runner at second base). Ashley Sapraicone, Badolato, Alexa Russell and Megan Harvey also scored in an eight inning that included multiple errors by Sacred Heart.

“I saw it. I had a vision of what I was going to do,” Badolato said. “I was going to hit the ball to centerfield, opposite field.”

Claire O’Brien matched Geary throughout the scoreless first seven innings before the international tiebreaker rule initiated the scoring. Geary pitched out of her deepest jam in the sixth. Sacred Heart’s Kayla Fitzpatrick tripled to leadoff the sixth, but Geary got the next batter to fly out to shallow rightfield, followed by a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

“You know your teammates will pick you up,” Geary said. “It’s just one hit, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Nicole Giella had the key hit in the afternoon’s semifinal with a first-pitch, two-out, three-run double to left-centerfield to break at tie at 4 for Kellenberg against St. John the Baptist in the Firebirds’ five-run fifth inning. Giella, despite being a junior on a senior-rich team, knew it was her time to come through.

“We’re all taking a leadership role,” Giella said. “We don’t have captains, so we are all for each other . . . I knew I had to step up there and do something big.”

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