Juli Murillo #23 of St. Anthony's, left, evades the tag...

Juli Murillo #23 of St. Anthony's, left, evades the tag of Kellenberg catcher Ariana Corrente #15 to give the Friars a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning of the NSCHSAA softball championship at Hofstra on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: James Escher

Juli Murillo has blossomed into a superstar for the St. Anthony’s softball team.

Facing a 1-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Murillo smoked a line drive to the wall in left-centerfield for a triple, driving in Bella Cruz and giving top-seeded St. Anthony’s a four-run lead in its 6-3 win over No. 2 Kellenberg in the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA championship game Tuesday at Hofstra.

“My approach is outside of the box and no thinking inside the box,” the junior said. “Two strikes, I know what she’s throwing and I’m on it right away. Off the bat, I knew Bella was scoring. But seeing the ball roll to the wall was great and it was big for our energy.”

Murillo was named the tournament’s MVP as the Friars won their seventh consecutive league title.

St. Anthony’s (23-0) will look to win its fourth-straight CHSAA state title on Friday. The Friars will face the NYC representative in the semifinals at 11 a.m. at Queen’s College and would advance to the final at 2 p.m. at St. John’s University with a win.

Following Murillo’s triple, Jackie Morra lined a double to left-centerfield to drive her in and give the Friars a 6-1 lead.

An error helped Kellenberg take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but St. Anthony’s wasted no time getting it back in their half of the inning.

Cruz hit a leadoff single, followed by a perfectly placed bunt single by Murillo. Two batters later, Cruz and Murillo executed a double steal before Valentina Iula punched a single into shallow center to drive them both in and give St. Anthony's a 2-1 lead.

Cruz went 3-for-4 with two runs and two stolen bases.

“My biggest goal every game is to just get on base and set the table,” Cruz said. “When you lead off and get on base, the momentum kind of just goes by itself and I have confidence in everyone behind me in the lineup to bring me home.”

Ava Vandernoth scored on an RBI groundout by Casey Steinert and Sophia Lee drove in Sophia Erker on a sacrifice fly to start the Friars’ four-run fourth.

Lexi Zaremba had an RBI single in the first inning and Kaitlyn Larmann hit a two-run homer in the sixth for Kellenberg, which finished 17-8.

Morra was named the league’s regular season MVP for the second year in a row and Mila Fiordalisi was named the Pitcher of the Year for the third straight year. Fiordalisi allowed two earned runs in seven innings, struck out four and earned the win.

“I’m so grateful to have had these last three years with her,” said Iula, the Friars’ catcher. “She brings out the best in all of us. She challenges you, not just to be a better defensive player, but to be a better person in general.”


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