Jun 03, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Alicia Hansen did not hold back on the hyperbole in the afterglow of the Liverpool softball team’s 2-1, nine-inning victory over Cicero-North Syracuse in Monday’s Section III Class AA final at the Gillette Road complex that ended the Northstars’ four-year reign as sectional champions and gave the Warriors its first crown since 2009.
“This is the greatest feeling of my whole life,” said Hansen. “All we wanted was to win this game, and we did.”
Then again, Hansen could hardly be faulted for some happiness. She had, after all, raced home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to end another classic duel between the two neighbors, rivals and reigning AA softball superpowers.
For much of the game, the two pitchers – Liverpool’s Dana Nicoletti and C-NS’s Megan Tully – had kept the opposition quiet, sometimes with easy innings, other times escaping big trouble thanks to terrific defense.
By the time they reached the ninth, though, Nicoletti was enjoying her strongest stretch, having retired the last 10 batters she faced. She said the key to her success in this game was getting ahead of hitters and throwing early strikes, which she managed to accomplish.
It was only a question of whether the Warriors would reward her with a victory before the international rule of a runner at second base in the 10th inning took hold.
Leading off the bottom of the ninth, Hansen, who had stayed patient all game long at the plate, was rewarded with a walk. Following her, Peyton Bellrose also walked. Then Jenna Wike managed an infield single that loaded the bases and brought Katie Yudin to the plate.
Yudin hit a short fly ball to right field, and C-NS’s Breanna Melfi caught it. Since it was too shallow to try and go to the plate, Hansen tagged up, but only moved a few steps. Still, it was enough to draw a throw from Melfi that sailed over the head of catcher Morgan Phillips.
Now Hansen took off, and before Phillips could get the ball to Tully covering home plate, Hansen scored, and Liverpool had won a sectional title.
The game had exquisite tension from start to finish. Neither team got a hit until the top of the fourth, when Katie Scott singled, only to get thrown off first on a double play when a bunt attempt turned into a popout. Unfazed, Beth Bonin doubled, and Melfi singled her home to give C-NS a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth. Nicoletti singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and went to third on Ericka Sadowski’s single. Hansen popped out, and then Bellrose hit it to the wall in right-center field, but Lauren Floyd chased it down for a brilliant catch.
And then it got interesting.
The deep fly ball easily scored Nicoletti from third, but on appeal, it was found that Sadowski had left second base too soon, and she was called out. After a conference, the umpires ruled that the run counted, despite the Northstars’ protests that said the out at second negated the run at home.
Staying cool amid the growing tension and hot temperatures, Nicoletti and Tully retired every batter they faced in the seventh and eighth innings. The difference was that Nicoletti did so again in the ninth, and Tully could not quite match her.
Liverpool heads to Malta Recreation Center in Ballston Spa, near Albany, on Friday at 5 p.m. for the Class AA regional final against Section II champion Bethlehem. The winner of that game advances to the state final four on June 14 at Moreau Recreation Center in Glens Falls.