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Waccabuc's Gardiner's walk-off home run remembered

The thrilling, exhilarating moment is still fresh in Ali Gardiner’s mind. It becomes even more pronounced at this time of year when the NCAA Division I College Softball World Series is held. Gardiner, a 2005 John Jay-Cross River graduate from Waccabuc,  hit one of the most memorable home runs in College Softball World Series history. In 2009, Gardiner crushed a walk-off, grand slam, lifting Florida over Alabama in a national semifinal. The dramatic home run replay was run constantly on ESPN that night and the next few days. “The moment was numbing, so surreal,” said Gardiner, a 2010 Florida graduate. “I wasn’t even focused on the fact that I hit a grand slam, but more so, that we were going to play for a national title.” Gardiner, an excellent hitter who used the whole field, said she was in the worst hitting slump of her softball career at that time. “Being able to make a contribution, which felt like it had been months ago, was a sigh of relief,” said Gardiner, who pitcher John Jay to the 2005 Section 1 Class AA final. “The grand slam was awesome, but supporting and helping my teammates to our ultimate goal was really the biggest positive to come out of that moment.” In her prior two at-bats, the left-handed-hitting Gardiner said she lined out to the leftfielder. Before Gardiner stepped in, her teammate was intentionally walked in front of her. Gardiner was not looking for home run in that situation, she was concentrating on one thing. “All I wanted to do was find a way to keep the game going and give our team a chance for a comeback,” said Gardiner, who works in New York City. When Gardiner hit the Kelsi Dunne pitch, she thought it was another line out to the leftfielder. “As I rounded first base, I noticed the ball was staying up in the air and saw the outfielder flip over the outfield fence,” Gardiner said. “All I wanted to do at that point was get home and celebrate with my teammates.” Gardiner was bombarded with text messages and phone calls following her moment. Even after Washington upset Florida to win the series, Gardiner’s home run was still the No. 1 highlight.“Initiatlly, after the game, it put a huge smile on my face,” Gardiner said. “After the next few days and after the disappointing series loss, it wasn’t something I wanted to watch any more. “Now, almost two years later, it’s almost weird to watch. I am completely humbled at the fact that they still show it and speak of it when in the end, we didn’t come out on top.” While Gardiner enjoyed the moment, another positive aspect came from her home run. “It helped spread the word to other Northeast softball players that you can play at the top level and you can succeed even if you are not from California or Florida,” Gardiner said.

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