Even with a heavy heart, MacArthur’s Chiara Nappo had extra motivation in a Nassau A softball semifinal on Friday.
Nappo’s grandfather, Michael Martucci, passed away on Thursday.
"I was like, ‘I’m doing it for him. I’m doing it for everybody,' " she said. "We came this far. We have to keep pushing."
Nappo, who had hit two home runs all season, connected for two more as fourth-seeded host MacArthur defeated No. 8 Long Beach, 6-3.
MacArthur (7-10) travels to face No. 2 Mepham on Monday in Game 1 of the best-of-three Nassau A championship series.
"She did it for him," said Nappo’s mom, Christina, fighting back tears. "Two! Not one. I said, ‘Get a home run for Michael.’ "
Nappo’s two-run blast in the third inning gave the Generals a 3-2 lead. The ball hit the yellow tubing on the top of the fence and went over for her third homer of the season.
"I honestly thought it was going to be a pop fly at first," she said. "It didn’t look like it was going to go far. But when I saw it roll over [the top of the fence] I was like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get hyped.’ It was great."
She wasn’t finished. Nappo, who entered the playoffs as MacArthur’s top hitter at .391, sent a lined smash into the gap in left-centerfield in the fifth.
Two Long Beach outfielders made great efforts for the catch, but collided, as Nappo hustled around the bases for her second two-run homer of the game to give the Generals a 6-2 lead.
"[Nappo's] been on fire all season," said MacArthur pitcher Taylor Brunn. "She always gets rallies started and she keeps them going."
Long Beach (9-8) took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run home run by catcher Elaina Kassap, who ended the playoffs with three homers in four games.
The Marines, who knocked off top-seeded Division, 4-3, on Wednesday, rallied to make it 6-3 and actually brought Kassap to the plate as the tying run with two outs.
But Brunn (who scattered 10 hits with three strikeouts and one walk) induced a humpback liner to shortstop Colette O’Brien to end the game.
Afterward, MacArthur coach Bobby Fehrenbach was impressed with his team’s defense, especially the work of Nappo.
"Forget about the [two] home runs, whatever. Forget about that — just her defense," he said. "She’s pouncing on the ball; ranging to the left. The ball gets by her the one time and she’s on her back and she still tries to throw to first.
"She’s done a tremendous job this year — not only with the bat, but in the field."
Nappo, who was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and four RBIs, was nearly speechless after her two-homer performance.
"This is unbelievable," she said. "My grandpa was totally helping me out. I was just doing it for my team, and that’s what it comes down to."
She added that there was no way she was missing Friday’s semifinal a day after her grandpa’s passing.
"I wanted to be here for my team," she said, "and I know he would be wanting me to play, too."
Heavy heart and all.