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Solvay softball ousted by state champs in regional

Call it a bargain with the devil, perhaps.

Making it fun all the way, the Solvay softball team rode a string of comebacks and heart-stopping finishes to earn its first-ever Section III Class B championship.

Yet the "reward" for this accomplishment was an appearance in the regional finals where, unlike years past, Section III would not play Section II for the right to go to the state final four.

Instead, the Bearcats were meeting the Section IV champions -- and that meant Susquehanna Valley, winners of the last two state Class B titles and a long-established power in the sport.

Against this juggernaut, Solvay could not get going in last Wednesday's regional final at the Gillette Road complex, falling to the Sabers by a score of 13-0.

Just as in the sectional final against Adirondack, Solvay met up with a senior pitcher. SV's Beckah Wiggins has been with the varsity Sabers since seventh grade, and her resume included winning the 2006 state title at this same Gillette complex, finishing it off with three straight no-hitters, two of them perfect games.

Only a seventh-inning error on Britni Casimiro's grounder prevented Wiggins from a perfect game against Solvay. Still, she got the no-hitter, striking out 10 Bearcat batters along the way.

For two innings, Gabrielle Nurod held on and kept SV's hitters from too much damage. All that changed in the bottom of the third, though, when the Sabers piled up nine runs, aided by a series of Solvay errors.

As if her pitching wasn't great enough, Wiggins also starred at the plate, going three-for-five and driving in five of SV's runs.

Just looking at the raw numbers, Solvay's final mark of 13-10 isn't too thrilling, but most of those defeats came early.

Head coach Phil Merrill and his players persevered, caught some breaks along the way, and peaked at the end, beating Skaneateles 1-0 in the sectional Class B-1 semifinal, then going to extra innings to knock off both Cazenovia and Adirondack to claim the sectional banner.

And it did so with just one senior. Stacy Kaltenbach, Solvay's catcher, will be difficult to replace, both from a talent and leadership perspective, but everyone else could come back in 2008.

With Nurod, Casimiro, Kelly Kaltenbach, Shannon Slowik, Jessica Savo, Chelsey Chavez-Egan, Katrina Griffo, Erica Griffo, Kylie Scoville, Liz Martinez, Ashley Hunter and Arianna Campagnone still in the fold, the Bearcats might not be done winning softball crowns.

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