If their first encounter was any kind of indication, the Solvay and Westhill softball teams might spend the entire spring battling it out for top honors in the OHSL Liberty divisions.
On a raw Thursday afternoon, the two neighbors confronted each other for the first time in 2008, and it took eight innings for the Bearcats to fight past the Warriors 2-1.
This game had all kinds of elements, from great defense to questionable calls that affected both teams, plus two young pitchers showing lots of poise.
Solvay's Gabrielle Nurod, though just a sophomore, is the more established talent, while Westhill freshman Tony Secreti, a transfer from Baldwinsville, has the potential to be a dominant arm.
With pitchers like this, one mistake can be crucial. Solvay found this out in the top of the third inning when, after a one-out walk to Melissa Real, Lauren Kelly singled, and an error in left field allowed Real to race around with the game's first run.
Throwing with power, Secreti maintained that 1-0 edge until the bottom of the fifth, when she walked the first two hitters. After a groundout moved the runners over, Erica Griffo worked a long at-bat to her advantage as she hit a ground ball off Secreti's glove that brought home the tying run.
Solvay had a chance to go out in front, but after loading the bases, Secreti struck out Brittini Casimiro, one of 12 strikeouts on the afternoon.
The excitement continued in the seventh inning. With a Westhill runner on second, a foul ball went beyond the third-base line, but shortstop Kelly Kaltenbach raced over and made a diving catch, helping to end the rally.
After Nurod stranded two more runners in the top of the eighth, Solvay came to bat. Leading off, Chelsey Chavez-Egan hit a ball right in front of the plate, no more than a few feet. Somehow, the ball stayed fair, and Chavez-Egan was on base with an infield hit, moving to second on a sacrifice hunt.