Cicero Phil Merrill could only look back in speculation on how his previously undefeated Solvay softball team’s season ended abruptly in a 4-2 Class B regional loss to Windsor Tuesday night at the Gillette Road complex in Cicero.
“You wonder if it was a pressure cooker ready to explode after 20 in a row," Merrill said. "You didn’t know when the lid was going to come off."
That proverbial lid came off in what proved to be the team’s final and worst inning of the season. Holding a 2-0 lead going into the seventh, standout pitcher Jackie Gardner needed just three outs after recording more than 300 of them during the season.
But the Black Knights seemed to solve the riddle that allowed Gardner to win 19 games with a 0.51 ERA this year.
Windsor's Elizabeth Wickizer and third baseman Alexa Cary led off the seventh with singles up the middle. Courtney Vaccaro dropped a bunt down the third base line, and Julie Gardner bounced her throw wide to first base. Wickizer came around to score Windsor’s first run, while Cary and Vaccaro advanced to third and second.
After striking out lead-off hitter Paige Rauch, Gardner gave up what should have been a routine grounder to catcher Allison Lockwood. But shortstop Kiersten DiBello let the ball roll under her glove and into the outfield. Cary crossed the plate to tie things up at 2-2, with Vaccaro and Lockwood landed on third and second.
Emma Benson popped out to the catcher before Ashley Kamp stepped in and blasted a Gardner pitch to the fence for a double. Vaccaro and Lockwood trotted home easily to give the Black Knights a two-run lead.
All the pressure fell on Solvay for the second time in three games. This time, though, Julie Gardner, Sydney Cimini and Jackie Gardner went three up and three down against Windsor pitcher Morgan Starley, unable to muster the seventh-inning magic it had against General Brown that sent them to the Section III final less than a week earlier.