The Island Trees Lady Dawgs (18-2) softball team might not have gotten the start it was looking for Thursday, but it sure got the finish it needed.
The top-seeded Lady Dawgs came from behind to defeat the No. 4 Clarke Rams (11-7) by a final score of 9-3 Thursday afternoon and advance to the Class A finals against the Plainedge Red Devils.
Short stop Nicole Pellegrino led the way for the Lady Dawgs, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs scored.
Island Trees pitcher Alannah Basile struck out eight and allowed three hits, including just one after the third inning.
Rams eighth-grade pitcher Sarah Cornell struck out 10 batters in the loss.
Clarke took an early lead on a wild pitch from Basile in the bottom of the first inning. The Rams added to that lead in the top of the third after an error by Island Trees third baseman Tori Tedeshi led to a two-run triple from Clarke first baseman Danielle Ferrara.
The Lady Dawgs answered in the bottom of the third with two runs, including an RBI single from Tedeshi.
Mental and physical errors from Clarke allowed Island Trees to take its first lead of the game in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run single from Pellegrino.
"The one inning where we made two errors and allowed two runs to score, we allowed Island Trees to get the lead," Clarke head coach Chrissy DeMott said. "The moment shift was tremendous and our girls couldn't recover from it.
Pellegrino's go-ahead single dropped in between the Rams second baseman and right fielder just three batters after a dropped line drive by the right fielder.
"I got up to the plate and usually I take the first strike, but I just went for it because we wanted [the win] so bad and I couldn't believe it wasn't happening," Pellegrino said. "I got so excited and knew something big was happening after that."
The short stop was right. Just two innings later, with the Island Trees lead now at 5-3, Pellegrino ripped a two-run double into the outfield to blow the game wide open.
The Lady Dawgs added two more runs on a sacrifice fly from Tedeshi and a single from Basile to make it a 9-3 game. Tedeshi finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
"It started real ugly — it wasn't our game," Island Trees head coach Mike Bongiorno said after the win. "... It's been one of those dream seasons — they just fight and claw and do what they have to do to come back. For the last couple of weeks, our motto has been to 'leave no doubt' and they definitely left no doubt today."
The Island Trees' win sets up a best-of-three date with Plainedge in the Class A finals. While the Lady Dawgs are 2-0 against Plainedge this season, Bongiorno said his team needs to be ready.
"Come playoff time, especially the finals, anything can happen," he said.
The first game of the finals is at the Mitchel Field Athletic Complex on Monday, May 21, at 4 p.m.Teams 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 F Clarke 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 Island Trees 0 0 2 2 0 5 - 9
W: Basile L: Cornell