Ava Zicchinelli of Miller Place stares down to the plate...

Ava Zicchinelli of Miller Place stares down to the plate during the state Class A softball semifinals against Pittsford Sutherland on Friday in Bellport. Credit: Dawn McCormick

There is a level of trust between Ava Zicchinelli and the Miller Place defense that has propelled the Panthers to new heights.

After an error led to Pittsford Sutherland’s first run and loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning of Friday morning's state Class A softball semifinal, the junior pitcher buckled down.

With the tying run on first base, Zicchinelli recorded a strikeout and got the next batter to hit a comebacker to escape the threat, helping preserve Miller Place’s 4-1 win over Section V's Pittsford Sutherland (19-5) at Martha Avenue Park in Bellport.

“There was an error early on but it happens," Zicchinelli said. "And I know it’s not going to happen every single time. I trust my team, and if the other team scores a run, I trust us to hit.”

Zicchinelli got the offense going with a double to centerfield in the first inning. She advanced to third on a single by freshman catcher Delaney Schleider and scored on a groundout by Emily Lopez.

Zicchinelli, Lopez and leadoff hitter Laney Vomero all swung at the first pitch they saw in the frame.

“We always want to be aggressive,” Lopez said. “We always have that mentality at the plate. Personally, I don’t like getting behind in the count, so I like to swing early.”

Emily Lopez of Miller Place reacts after hitting a double...

Emily Lopez of Miller Place reacts after hitting a double and driving in a run during the NY state softball semifinals against Pittsford-Sutherland on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Bellport. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Miller Place (21-4) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Brooke Callaghan singled home Sadie Bryant. In the third, Lopez doubled home Schleider from first and scored on Breya Kesler’s single up the middle to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead.

“When you have a lineup like this where everyone is a strong hitter from top to bottom, the pitcher can’t take a pitch off," Miller Place coach Matt Timmons said. "And that can take a toll on a pitcher over the course of a game."

After escaping the jam in the fourth, Zicchinelli gave up a one-out single to Gabby Lyons in the fifth. She rebounded to strike out the next batter before Schleider threw out Lyons attempting to steal second for the final out of the inning.

“I thought today more than any other day, Delaney’s pitch-calling was spot on,” Timmons said. “There was that one inning where [Pittsford] maybe picked up on some kind of pattern, but she immediately went to something else and puzzled them.”

Zicchinelli struck out 10 and allowed one unearned run, four hits and three walks in a complete game. Bryant went 2-for-3 with a run and Kesler went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Miller Place, which won its first Long Island title a week ago, hasn’t lost since May 6 and is looking to make program history on Saturday. The Panthers will be making their first state championship appearance when they face Marlboro (Section IX) at 10 a.m. at Martha Avenue.

“Leave it all out on the field,” Zicchinelli said. “We have one more game to show everyone that we deserve to be here.”

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