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Stanners claim first-ever CHSAA state crown

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The sharp ground ball reached shortstop Marissa Puzino in mere seconds, but it felt a lot longer to those on the Archbishop Molloy bench. It was a ball Coach Maureen Rosenbaum had waited 10 years to see hit and for this current group of Stanners that third straight trip to the state playoffs was about to be the charm.

“It took too long,” junior star Maria Palmeri said. “I wanted a quick out. That ball felt like it was rolling 2 mph, it was so bad. I wanted her to make the play, needed her to make the play.”

Puzino calmly fielded it and flipped it to third baseman Alanna Gallagher for the force out, allowing Molloy to finally celebrate its first-ever CHSAA state softball title May 31 at the College of Staten Island. Molloy beat Monsignor Martin champion Mount Mercy 7-1 in the championship game after coming back to top Long Island champ Kellenberg 6-5 in the semifinals.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Puzino, who won a state Federation Class A title with the school’s girls’ basketball team. “We worked four years to win a city title. We finally won that. Now this is the first time in our school’s history to win the state. It’s an awesome feeling.”

The senior said that three was a magic number for Molloy (18-0) this postseason. For the third straight game it jumped ahead 3-0 in the opening inning on the Magic (12-5), on RBI singles from Palmeri and Dana Moss and Gallagher brought home a run with a fielder’s choice. The lead ballooned to 5-0 an inning later when Taylor Moss, who was 5-for-7 with seven RBIs in two games, laced a double into the centerfield gap off Magic starter Alison Benz. Jen DeMaria was 2-for-3 with a run scored.

“She was stupendous,” Rosenbaum said of Moss. “For a freshman that is just phenomenal without even the slightest bit of nerves.”

Palmeri, who verbally committed to C.W. Post earlier this season, wiggled her way out of trouble all game. She allowed eight hits, stranded 12 Mount Mercy runners, walked five and struck out four. Palmeri gave up just a run in the fourth on a wild pitch with two outs and the bases loaded. Molloy, which lost to St. Joseph by the Sea in last year’s final, added two insurance runs in the fifth on an RBI triple Dana Moss, who was 3-for-3 in the game, and a single by Taylor Moss to make it 7-1.

“Everyone says I like to make the game interesting,” Palmeri said. “I don’t do it on purpose.”

The team’s sole purpose this season was to win an elusive state title. Molloy has been consistently one of the area’s best softball teams during its 10 years of existence, but had yet to acquire the ultimate prize until now.

“We had never won before,” Palmeri said. “We made history.”

Molloy 6, Kellenberg 5: The Stanners scored three times in the opening inning against Kellenberg starter Caitlin Kennedy, only to see the Firebirds (23-4) score twice in the second, once in the third and two more in the fourth against Victoria Goldbach before the Long Island squad brought ace Susan Pardo on in the third.

Goldbach was struggling a little with command and not getting calls on the outside corner. The damage might have been worse had Palmeri not completed a short back hand flip for an out at third in the second and gunned down Pardo at first after a bobble for the final out of the fourth.

“When they scored we got a little bit less confidence,” Taylor Moss said. “But our bats brought it alive.”

Her team battled back with two outs in the bottom of the fourth against a Kellenberg team that it beat 6-3 during the regular season. Kristen Ponticelli worked a walk. Palmeri lined a ball down the right field line that went off the glove of a charging Allie Mancini. Dana Moss drew a walk and Taylor Moss delivered an RBI single past second to tie the score at 5. A ground ball to short by Jackie Perillo took a high hop on Amanda Crimarco, allowing a run to score and giving Molloy a 6-5 lead.

“They came back strong and confident,” Rosenbaum said.

Goldbach made it stand up as she found her dominant form over the final three frames. She allowed just one base runner, a double by Stephanie Staiano to start the fifth, and struck out three of the final nine batters she faced to secure the win.

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