Defying all the youth on its roster and the strong opponents in front of them, the Solvay softball team is one victory away from an improbable Section III Class B championship.
For the third round in a row, the no. 6 seed Bearcats won by a single run, this time pulling it off over no. 2 seed Canastota in a wind-swept 4-3 thriller in Wednesday's Class B semifinal at the Gillette Road complex in Cicero.
Having already squeaked by Ilion (1-0) and no. 2 seed Cazenovia (5-4) to get this far, Solvay's thrill ride continued - though it helped, no doubt, that Canastota had gone 11 innings in 90-degree heat to get past Marcellus in a weather-delayed quarterfinal the day before.
The Bearcats got a run in the second inning and three more in the top of the third, the key blow being Kiersten DiBello's double as she finished two RBIs. Julie Gardner and Chelsie Delperuto also drove in runs.
Canastota roared back, pulling within one with a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth, but Gardner would not allow anything more as she held the potent Raiders to five hits, striking out six.
Still, there was plenty of late drama. Canastota's Jessica Patterelli and Alexis Havens both reached base in the sixth, but Gardner pulled out of it. Then, in the seventh, a Solvay error put Kaleigh Coon on first, and Coon went to second on Jesse Boswell's sacrifice bunt.
Kelsey Lawrence's infield hit put the winning run on base. Needing a hit to at least tie the game, Ally Bernier fought Gardner hard before striking out, leaving it up to Sam McCarthy, who hit it hard - but grounded out to end the game.
Now Solvay (14-5) could sweep the top three seeds if it can oust top seed Adirondack (19-1) in Saturday night's Class B final at 7 p.m. at Hopkins Road Park in Liverpool.