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Valhalla beats Rye Neck, 3-1, in softball final

NANUET -- Jennie Schwartz made her decision a split second after Jessica Calvini released the pitch in the seventh inning yesterday. The Valhalla player felt if the pitch was good, she was going to swing. The Rye Neck pitcher gave Schwartz something to hit and she did the rest. Schwartz singled up the middle, scoring Keana Oliva and Danielle Maffei with the tie-breaking runs, sending second-seeded Valhalla to a 3-1 win over top-seeded Rye Neck in the Section 1 Class B softball championship game at Nanuet High School. Valhalla, now 19-4, advances to super-regional play Tuesday,  at Bellport Martha Avenue Field in Brookhaven, L.I.

The Vikings, who have won three consecutive sectional titles, including 2009 and ‘10, will play Section 9 winner Rhinebeck, noon. The Section 8 (Nassau County) and Section 11 (Suffolk County) meet in the other game, also at noon. The winners of both games play 2:30 p.m. for a berth in the state final four. “In my last at-bat, she struck me out on a high pitch so coach wanted me to lay off the high pitch,” Schwartz said. “I knew we needed a hard-hit ball. She came inside with the pitch and I saw it early so I sent it up the middle.”

Oliva led off the seventh inning with a single and Maffei turned in the at-bat of the game. She worked the count full, then fouled off four consecutive pitches before walking. “That at-bat was huge," said Schwartz. "Danielle kept battling and she wasn’t giving it. She got it in her head that was going to win the battle.”

Rye Neck had evened the score in the bottom of the sixth inning on pinch-hitter Diana King’s two-out single to center field, scoring pinch runner Nicole Miller and moving Vanessa Laise, who also singled, to second. Lauren Bradley lined a single to right field and Schwartz came up throwing home. Valhalla catcher Maddy DeMilio had the short-hop throw bounce off her glove, prompting Rye Neck coach Joan Spedafino to send Laise. DeMilio retrieved the ball, quickly, and tagged out Laise at the plate to end the inning. Valhalla proved that the step up in class this season did not affect it. “This feels amazing,” Schwartz said. “We knew we could do it if we worked hard. Our goal was to get here and we did and won. Our next goal is to win in states.” Valhalla pitcher Alex Kinnally scattered six hits and struck out four. Jade Fumarelli singled in Christina Miterotonda in the first inning for Valhalla. Calvini allowed five hits, two earned runs and struck out six.

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