Jun 07, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Liverpool’s Erin Squairs had to cringe, even for a split second, as Cicero-North Syracuse’s Lucia Meola ripped a line drive off her in the bottom of the 10th inning of Saturday’s Section III Class AA softball final.
Yet that shot went straight into the glove of shortstop Ciara Burke — and with that, the Warriors had beaten the Northstars 6-5 at the Gillette Road complex and reclaimed the Section III Class AA championship.
In recent years, these long-time rivals have traded the sectional title with each other — CNS in 2006 and 2008, Liverpool in 2007 — and since this was an odd-numbered year, it was fitting the Warriors had its turn at the top.
And it was just as fitting that the final turned into a pulse-pounding classic that featured big plays and big mistakes, rallies and recoveries, and an issue in doubt right until the final pitch.
A large crowd looked on as Liverpool seized control in the first three innings, landing four runs off CNS pitcher Erica Gigliotti, helped in no small part by a series of defensive mistakes on the Northstars’ part.
Meanwhile, Tiffany Sampere kept pitching into trouble — and kept getting out. In her first five innings of work, she stranded 10 CNS runners as, time after time, the Northstars could not get the hit it needed to make things closer.
So it was 4-1 going into the bottom of the sixth — but with two out, CNS caught up, plating a run before, with two runners in scoring position, Morgan Nandin hit a bouncing single up the middle that brought home both runners and tied it, 4-4.
By then, Sarah Salamone had replaced Gigliotti and was in the midst of shutting out Liverpool over six straight innings. In the top of the seventh, she got Emily Dumas, Kalyn Howard and Erin Squairs in order, something few pitchers had done all spring.
When Sampere walked Gigliotti to open the bottom of the seventh, Squairs took over in the pitcher’s circle. The senior left-hander escaped that jam and retired six in a row.
In the bottom of the ninth, CNS threatened to end it. Huff doubled down the left-field line, and Liverpool intentionally walked Nandin. Squairs then got a force play and strike out and coaxed pinch-hitter Jenna Perry to fly out.
So now they were in the 10th inning, where a runner gets put on second base. Howard returned and, after nearly belting a home run, doubled to the wall to score Jen Maloney. Then, with two out, Beth Lamison’s single brought home Howard. That would prove to be important.
With two out in the bottom of the 10th, Sydney Harbaugh beat out an infield hit, allowing CNS to cut the margin to one, with Meola stepping up.
Having produced so many big hits in her high-school career, Meola fought to a 2-2 count, then hit it hard — right at Burke, and the Warriors were sectional champions, bound for Tuesday’s regional final at Gillette against Section II champion Columbia.
Squairs said that, two years ago, Liverpool was just content to reach the regional round, and that she hopes that isn’t the case this time around.
“Now we have to make sure we’re still hungry and that we still want it,” she aaid.