Miller Place catcher Delaney Schleider and pitcher Ava Zicchinelli (R)...

Miller Place catcher Delaney Schleider and pitcher Ava Zicchinelli (R) celebrate their win over Islip in the Suffolk Class A softball finals, Saturday, May 25, 2024 at Martha Ave. Athletic Complex. Credit: George A Faella

Miller Place junior pitcher Ava Zicchinelli remembers rushing from the outfield to join the celebratory dogpile after the Panthers won the 2021 Suffolk Class A softball title.

Three years later, she was in the eye of the storm. Zicchinelli allowed just four hits and zero earned runs in a seven-strikeout complete game while going 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored. No. 3 Miller Place secured a 4-1 win over No. 2 Islip on Saturday in the Suffolk Class A championship at Martha Avenue Recreational Park in Bellport.

After striking out Lauren McSweeney for the final out of the game, Zicchinelli ran to hug her catcher Delaney Schleider before the rest of the Panthers joined them at home plate to celebrate.

“It’s the best feeling,” Zicchinelli said. “When I was in eighth grade, I was in rightfield when we came in. Just being at the bottom [of the dogpile] is the best feeling ever.”

“[Zicchinelli’s] got electric stuff,” Miller Place coach Matt Timmons said. “Great spin, throws the ball hard. Really, the one thing that I’ve always believed in personally is I don’t call the game. I let the pitcher and the catcher call the game, and because of that she now has a great understanding of how to get girls out and what to do to be so effective. She’s simply the best.”

Miller Place (19-4) does not have a senior on its roster. The Panthers rolled through the county playoffs, beating No. 6 Kings Park, Islip, No. 4 Sayville and Islip again to claim the crown. Islip (22-4) and Miller Place split their two regular-season meetings, and the Buccaneers won the League VI title by one game.

After Zicchinelli struck out the side in the first inning, the Panthers’ first two batters went down in order. Schleider was plunked in the next at-bat, though, and Emily Lopez stepped up to the plate. Lopez crushed the first pitch she saw for a no-doubt, two-run shot to left-centerfield.

“I saw a pitch and drove it,” said Lopez, who turned 17 on Saturday. “That’s really it.”

Islip chipped away in the fourth inning. Keira Jantz reached on a two-base error to start the inning, and she scored after Lauren Hoffman’s RBI fielder’s choice. Bella Governale nearly tied the score with a two-out single, but Miller Place centerfielder Brooke Borkowski uncorked a perfect bouncing toss to get Hoffman at the plate.

“Brooke Borkowski’s got a fantastic arm,” Timmons said. “She’s a fantastic athlete. Only a sophomore, she’s going to continue to grow and get better. That throw was just a real example of her athleticism and just her straight-up ability. She’s just one of those people that shows up in the big moments.”

Miller Place extended its lead to three in the bottom of the sixth. Laney Vomero hit a leadoff double and Zicchinelli hit a single. Schleider followed the back-to-back hits with an RBI single to plate Vomero. Zicchinelli scored on the same play as Islip tried to get Schleider at second once the ball reached the infield.

“It’s their belief in one another that is above and beyond the reason that they’re able to be so successful," Timmons said.


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