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Samantha Valentine pitches Longwood into AA finals

Longwood pitcher Samantha Valentine delivers to the plate

Longwood pitcher Samantha Valentine delivers to the plate in the bottom seventh inning of a Suffolk County varsity softball Class AA playoff game vs. Bay Shore. (May 30, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Happy Valentine's Day, Longwood!

There will be no flowers or chocolates, though, just gems and perhaps a county championship courtesy of Samantha Valentine.

The senior pitcher led No. 3 Longwood to a 3-1 win over top-seeded Bay Shore Thursday in the Class AA double-elimination semifinals, bringing the Lions within one win of a county title.

Valentine handed the Marauders only their second loss of the season, holding them to six hits and a season-low one run. She struck out five and walked two.

"I was spinning the ball and keeping it off the plate,'' she said. "Knowing I had such a good defense made me feel more confident.''

She got help from her defense on the final out. With a runner on first, Giana Panariello hit a grounder between first and second base, where second baseman Leah Mele made a diving stop and the throw to first.

"I had to get that last out or maybe a run scores,'' she said. "So, I did what I had to do.''

Mele went 3-for-4 and also scored Longwood's first run on a single by Alex Russo to tie the score at 1 in the third. Russo singled again in the fifth to drive in Taylor Crofts and Kylie Spillett, giving Longwood a 3-1 lead.

"Last year we came up short in counties,'' Russo said of Longwood's loss to East Islip. "Now we have a shot to win it all.''

Noel Lent went 2-for-4 for Longwood (20-3), which plays Friday's's winner of Bay Shore and No. 4 Hauppauge in the final Saturday. The Lions need only one win, but their opponent must sweep a doubleheader.

Sarah Edwards hit a home run in the second to give Bay Shore (21-2) a 1-0 lead. Michelle DeVito, allowed 10 hits and two walks and struck out five. DeVito and Panariello each went 2-for-3.

Bay Shore threatened in the sixth but Valentine induced a fly ball with the bases loaded to end the inning.

"Everyone kept telling us this is our year,'' she said. "Now we have one more game to win.''

It would make a great Valentine's Day gift.

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