Katie Stork #2 of Massapequa charges from third base to...

Katie Stork #2 of Massapequa charges from third base to defend against a possible bunt as a pitch is delivered during the top of the fourth inning of the NYSPHSAA softball Class AA state semifinals against Clarence at Moriches Athletic Complex on Friday, June 9, 2023. Credit: James Escher

Emily Balducci and the Massapequa softball team just wouldn’t give up.

Trailing by six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Balducci fouled off pitch after pitch, before drawing a 13-pitch walk to load the bases.

The walk started a one-out rally, but Massapequa ultimately fell 6-3 to Clarence of Section VI in the state Class AA semifinals at the Moriches Athletic Complex on Friday. Clarence will face Shenendehowa of Section II in the championship on Saturday.

“I was swinging at anything close,” Balducci said. “Whether I tipped it or I got a hit, I just needed to reach for it and make contact. I just felt like I had to do something. I had to keep fighting.”

After the walk, Samantha Portz, who started the inning with a single, scored on a wild pitch. Annalise Lane followed by lining a single to center to drive in Lauren O’Brien and Balducci.

Massapequa (18-10) was held hitless by Clarence’s Ella Harrison through four innings, but Mikayla Buckley broke up the no-hitter with hit a two-out single in the fifth.

“Hitting is contagious,” Massapequa coach Christina Castellani said. “After that first hit, we come in the dugout the next inning and we’re all saying, ‘Hey, we can hit her. It’s possible.’”

Buckley also pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, striking out one while allowing two hits and one walk.

Despite losing several impact players in the offseason, Massapequa won its third consecutive county title and made its second straight state semifinal appearance after a 20-7 over Smithtown East in the Long Island Class AA championship last Friday.

“It was a bit of a rebuilding year in a sense, but I never doubted that we would be back here,” Castellani said.

“Everyone had that mentality that we’re not going to go down without a fight,” Balducci added. “We’re all so close with each other. Ending it now instead of tomorrow really hurts.”

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