Twice in the regular season, the Oneida softball team earned victories over New Hartford, efforts that appeared to signal the Indians' intention to, eventually, snag the defending Section III Class A champion's crown once the playoffs rolled around.
Yet when Oneida and New Hartford met once more in last Wednesday's Class A semifinal at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill's Oliver Park, the Spartans would prove to be just a bit better, beating the Indians 5-4.
It marked the third year in a row that New Hartford had ended Oneida's season in the Class A playoffs. Such frustration was made worse by the close nature of this particular contest -- and by how well the Indians had done in previous encounters with this group of Spartans.
Those regular-season meetings, on April 24 and May 12, went 6-2 and 5-3 in Oneida's favor, and the Indians had been quite impressive in the playoffs so far, getting 25 combined runs in routs of Chittenango and Fulton.
Up against New Hartford pitcher Haley Butler, Oneida got a run in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead, then protected it early by having its own ace, Beth Kann, strike out five Spartan hitters in the first three innings.
However, New Hartford broke through in the top of the fourth, tying it 1-1, and nearly went in front. On a passed ball, Tessa Trainor tried to score, but Kristin Kinney scrambled to the ball and fired it to Kann, covering the plate, in time to tag Trainor out.
Fired up by that play, the Indians scored twice in the bottom of the fourth to go back in front 3-1, only to see that lead vanish when New Hartford gained two runs of its own in the fifth inning to tie it again, 3-3.
So it remained until a memorable seventh inning. Going first, New Hartford put Butler and Alyssa Acquaviva on base with one out, and saw Kann work a 3-2 count to Dominique Carcone. On the payoff pitch, Carcone drilled a single to right, scoring both Acquaviva and Butler.