Behind seniors Christina Loeffler and Sam Reyes, and sophomore sensation Jenna Laird, No. 1 East Meadow endured the pressure of repeating and a stiff challenge from upstart six-seed Calhoun to capture a second straight Nassau Class AA softball title with a 6-1 victory in Game 2 of the best-of-three county finals May 24 at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
Loeffler pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts and blasted a two-run homer over the fence in left to give the defending state champs a 5-1 lead in the top of the second after Reyes drove in Laird with two outs. Loeffler also drove in Laird in the first inning for the second time in as many days.
“We’ve had some ups and downs along the way, but this feels great,” Loeffler said. “We just want to keep it going and get back to states and try to win it like last year.”
The Lady Jets (17-5) will face Longwood June 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Hofstra in the Long Island Class AA title game/Southeast Regional final. The Lady Colts, who eliminated Baldwin and Farmingdale on the way to making their first-ever appearance in the county finals according to coach Jason Boland, finished 17-5.
“These girls find a way,” East Meadow coach Stew Fritz said. “I’m so proud of each and every one of them. Yesterday, when we won 2-1, we only had three hits but we also had only one strikeout. I thought today we might be due for some good fortune and we managed to hit a lot better.
“Calhoun gave us a tough battle,” he added. “I thought throughout the season they were going to get here. They got here and I think they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with next year.”
A day after throwing out the potential tying run at the plate in the top of the sixth to preserve East Meadow’s 2-1 series-opening victory, Reyes, who plays right field and also had a huge assist in last year’s state championship game, had the key at-bat early in Game 2, Fritz said.
“I felt we were losing momentum until Sam got that hit,” Fritz said of the second-inning single to left that followed Laird’s two-out triple off the fence in right-center. “I know Christina’s home run came after and opened the game up, but Sam’s at-bat was the big one in my opinion. She’s our unsung hero.”
Loeffler, who didn’t allow a run in Game 1 until senior Kayla Pilotti (3-for-3) singled home junior Heather Berberich in the sixth, stymied Calhoun in Game 2 after senior Keri McLaughlin’s RBI single in the bottom of the first. Loeffler allowed only four batters to reach over the last six innings.
“Christina always manages to find a little extra when she needs to,” Fritz said. “She has that extra gear.”
East Meadow, which defeated the Lady Colts 2-0 in the lone regular-season meeting, tacked on a run in the sixth when sophomore Amanda Thompson drove in sophomore Isabella Shepherd.
“Every year there’s pressure to do well,” Fritz said. “Some years there’s more pressure than others. It’s hard, but I would never switch places.”