Travel plans are now underway for Solvay's softball team, who punched a ticket to the state Class B final four at Glens Falls in the sweetest way possible.
Already with the Section III title in hand, the Bearcats sought payback in Friday's Class B regional final against Windsor (Section IV) Friday at Union-Endicott High School – and got it, with Jackie Gardner starring in the pitcher’s circle and at the plate to beat the Black Knights 6-3.
A year ago, these same two teams met in the regional round at Gillette and Solvay, up 2-0 going to the seventh inning, squandered that lead as Windsor prevailed 4-2. Now they met again, with a berth in the state final four at stake.
Gardner breezed through the first three innings as the Bearcats, benefiting from a Windsor error, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second as Sydney Cimini got credit for the RBI. But that was just the warm-up act.
In the bottom of the fourth, Nicole Antonacci led off with a bunt single, and through that same method Brenna Poli reached base as Antonacci raced around to third. Moments later, the bases were loaded.
Now Gardner stepped into the batter’s box. To this point in the post-season, she had swung a solid bat, but had not contributed too many big hits.
But then she took an offering from Windsor pitcher Mara Kohlbach and crushed it over the fence. In one swing, Gardner had delivered a grand slam and turned a modest margin into an imposing 5-0 lead.
Just as in 2013, Windsor tried to rally, putting up three runs in the top of the fifth off a pair of home runs – one a solo shot by Paige Rauch that went deep over the fence, the other a two-run blast by Emma Benson, all with nobody out.