Pearl River junior Amanda Hartigan thought she was stopping at third base on senior Gemma Mahoney's eighth-inning single to left field.
Then she heard Pearl River Coach Mike Carlacci telling her to go after the ball got past Eastchester left fielder Danielle Rella
"I didn’t see it go through her," Hartigan said. "I thought I was stopping. I heard him say, 'Go, go… touch the plate.' I touched the plate and knew it was over and it was the best feeling ever."
Hartigan's run in the bottom of the eighth gave Pearl River a 2-1 victory over Eastchester in the Section 1 Class A Softball Championship Game Saturday at North Rockland High School.
"I didn't even know that was the game-winning run until my team came out," Mahoney said. "It's just great. It feels awesome. We knew they were an awesome team with awesome pitching. We knew whoever came to play was going to win and we did it."
"Like I told the girls, that last play will be the one they remember, but we had opportunities earlier in the game," Eastchester coach Chris Walpole said. "She might have tried to rush her footing to try to make the play at third. They are an aggressive team. They capitalize on mistakes like that and that's what they did."
Eastchester (22-2) lost despite a strong performance from pitcher Janine Lalli, who struck out nine and gave up only two unearned runs on five hits and two walks in eight innings.
"We saw a lot of Class AA pitchers and O'Flynn," Walpole said. "No disrespect to them, but I thought my kid was the best kid in the section."
O'Flynn matched Lalli every step of the way, striking out seven and giving up one run on four hits with no walks.
"Unbelievable," Pearl River coach Mike Carlacci said. "Katie was throwing really well. They got those three hits in the seventh inning, but she was awesome all day."
O'Flynn has now been the winning pitcher in three section championship games. She three of the team's other seniors -- Mahoney, Jamie DeGennaro and Kaity Goldrick -- have been part of section championship teams four years in a row. First baseman Amanda Schule joined the varsity as a sophomore.
"It feels unbelievable," Carlacci said. "When we won in 2008, we won here. We were riding the bus home. I said to them, enjoy this. You may never get another shot at it. They said, 'We’re going to win four in a row.' I laughed in their faces and the four of them just got their fourth in a row."
"It’s nice to prove him wrong," Mahoney said. "He thought we were talking and being cocky. We are a great team. We get along so well. It’s nice to say, yeah, we did it coach. We won four years in a row."
Pearl River (23-1) had to find its offense first. The Pirates did get two runners on via a walk and an error in the third, but the threat ended when Rella chased down Mahoney's soft liner to left. Pearl River entered the fifth inning without a hit, but Goldrick changed that by driving a triple over the right fielder's head.
"As people were coming back in the dugout, we always tell each other about the pitcher," Goldrick said. "We knew she was outside and low. I was waiting for that to hit. It was just a perfect pitch. I saw it go and couldn’t believe it and kept running. It was awesome."
Things got better for the Pirates when a pitch by Lalli got away from catcher Kristin Martin. She threw the ball to Lalli in time to get Goldrick out at home, but Lalli lost the ball when Goldrick slid into her and Pearl River had a 1-0 lead.
"He said go," Goldrick said. "I know I hesitated a little bit. I ran as fast as I could to home plate. They had me dead out at home, but she dropped the ball. It was great to get that first run on the board. Sometimes even when he knows we’re going to be thrown out, he sends us. It makes them make the plays. A lot of times it turns out in our favor, just like it did there."
"She had a huge game defensively and obviously gets that massive triple and scores on a wild pitch," Carlacci said of Goldrick. "You like to see seniors come through in the clutch."
That run looked like it might be enough. O'Flynn gave up a double to Anna Crowley to lead off the game, but retired 18 in a row after that going into the top of the seventh.
Danielle Cacciola led off the inning with a grounder to the left side of the infield. Mahoney made a tough play to stop it, but Cacciola beat the throw for an infield single. Lalli reached on a fielder's choice to third, then moved to third base when Martin singled and right fielder Shannon McKiernan's throw hit the umpire's foot. Taylor Delgatto followed with a solid single to center to tie the game at 1-1. Schule snared a soft liner by Casey Dell'aera, then stepped on first to complete a double play that ended the threat.
"Hartigan made a couple of great plays," Carlacci said. "Gemma. Amanda Schule. Kaitly Goldrick. All the way around, this was definitely our best defensive performance. This is what we expect. We expect that kind of defense."
Hartigan got the Pirates started in the bottom of the eighth by drawing a walk. Kristyn Neroda bunted her over to second, setting up Mahoney's line drive into left for and the error that let Hartigan score the winning run.
"Gemma did what she’s great at," Carlacci said. "She found a hole there. Amanda is very fast coming around third. I think the left fielder had to sort of rush it. I felt bad she slipped on the play. Gemma made a great play obviously there."
"Gemma was running back and fourth in the dugout (before her at-bat), pumping everybody up," O'Flynn said. "She has been working so hard. When I saw (the ball get by), I knew this was it. We just started running out of the dugout. Your emotions are racing. Every single heart on this team was in it 100 percent.
"Definitely amazing. This was our goal from the beginning of the season and we went out and did it."
"It's so awesome," Goldrick said. "We're so close. we would do anything for each other. We wanted it so bad and we got it."
Pearl River will play the Section 9 champion Port Jervis 3 p.m. Monday at Minisink Valley High School in the first round of the state playoffs. That could be a challenge with Pearl River's senior prom Sunday night.
"I have this cut on my knee and I'm wearing a short dress," Mahoney said. "My softball wound. But it's so worth it."
Pearl River 2, Eastchester 1 (8 innings)
Eastchester 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 -- 1 4 4
Pearl River 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 -- 2 5 0
WP: Katie O'Flynn; LP: Janine Lalli; 2B: E - Anna Crowley, PR - Jamie DeGennaro; 3B: PR - Kaity Goldrick