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Nicole Principe’s clutch single sparks Commack in Class AA playoffs

Commack's Nicole Principe hits a single that led

Commack's Nicole Principe hits a single that led to three runs and a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning on the way to a 5-2 victory over Eastport-South Manor in the Suffolk Class AA softball semifinals at ESM on Monday, on May 23, 2016. Credit: Daniel De Mato

The Commack softball team had no issues getting runners on base in Monday’s Suffolk Class AA winners’ bracket game. Getting them home was the problem.

But after top-seeded Eastport-South Manor took a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, second-seeded Commack’s offense finally landed its punches, plating five runs in the seventh for a 5-2 win.

Nicole Principe stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh against Marissa Rizzi, who had stranded seven runners in the first six innings and was twirling a shutout.

Not after Principe was done. She unloaded on an outside pitch, lining a single up the middle that found its way to the wall after skipping past the outfielders. Three runs scored and Principe slid safely into third as Commack took a 3-2 lead.

“I was crowding the plate, so the pitch was technically outside, but I was on the plate, so it looked like it was in,” Principe said. “So I jumped on it.”

It was a major pick-me-up for pitcher Alyssa Bluethgen, who had been throwing well before Nicole Shine blooped a single over Principe at short that drove in the Sharks’ two runs.

“I don’t have a voice anymore,” Bluethgen said of her reaction. “Yeah, it was really nice.”

Bluethgen struck out eight and set down the Sharks in order in the bottom of the seventh. Ariana Arato went 3-for-3 with three singles, a stolen base and a run scored. Eastport-South Manor’s Christina Rizzi went 2-for-4.

“We just played like we had nothing to lose,” Bluethgen said. “We were going out there to leave it all on the field, and I think we did.”

The late rally gave Bluethgen her 18th win, second in Suffolk to Rizzi, who has 21.

“She’s been a solid rock all year long,” coach Harold Cooley III said. “It’s always nice to know that you can call anything and she’s going to be able to execute it.”

Commack (20-4) will play in the Suffolk Class AA title game Friday against the team that comes out of the losers’ bracket. ESM (21-3) will play Thursday.

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