May 29, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Even as it was putting up big run totals throughout the spring, the Solvay softball team knew that, at some unknown point, it would have to grind out a win or two if it wanted to go as far as it wanted.
That tense moment arrived in Wednesday’s Section III Class B semifinal at the Gillette Road complex in Cicero, where a series of escapes by pitcher Jackie Gardner, and a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, allowed the top-seeded Bearcats to squeeze past no. 4 seed Altmar-Parish-Williamstown 2-1.
“This was a good learning session,” said Solvay head coach Phil Merrill. “Our kids had to work for everything. They showed a lot of backbone.”
All through the game, the Rebels threatened to take control, loading the bases in the first two innings, and again in the sixth, and putting runners on third base four different times, but every time Gardner got out of trouble.
Each of those times APW filled the bases, said Gardner, “I just had to stay focused and get the job done,” and Merrill agreed.
“Jackie pitched mostly on guts,” he said.
APW’s lone run came in the top of the third, when Gardner hit Ellen Parker, and Whitney Gaffey doubled her home. Solvay countered in the bottom of the third when Brenna Poli’s double scored Brandi Pidkaminy.
And it would stay tied for a while. Just as Gardner kept cool and thwarted multiple APW rallies, Rebels pitcher Amber Rice was silencing the potent Solvay bats, holding them to four hits and getting tremendous defense behind her every time it was required.
Thus, as the game went to the bottom of the seventh still at 1-1, both sides braced for possible extra innings, hoping that someone, somewhere, would get the hit that was needed.
Kiersten DiBello walked on four pitches to lead off the inning. Pinch-running for DiBello, Jordyn Everett was forced at second as Jordan Micheletti reached base. After Pidkaminy flew out, leadoff hitter Nicole Antonacci singled, moving Micheletti to third.
Then Poli came to the plate. Just getting enough contact, Poli grounded to Rice, who had a difficult time handling the ball, allowing Poli to reach first and Micheletti to race home with the winning run.
Now Solvay will get to return to Gillette on Monday to face no. 2 seed Adirondack for a chance at a second consecutive sectional title. The Wildcats won a tense 6-5 decision over no. 3 seed General Brown in the other semifinal.
The Bearcats’ playoff journey began last Saturday, when in the Class B quarterfinals it hosted its neighbor and rival, Westhill, who as the no. 8 seed had beaten Jordan-Elbridge 7-2 in the May 22 opening round.
Despite two regular-season wins over the Warriors, Solvay didn’t take the assignment for granted, and with its usual blend of power and pitching, the Bearcats prevailed 10-1.
As it has done so many other times, Solvay wasted little time taking control, getting three runs in each of the first two innings off Westhill pitcher Nina Scramale.
Katie Lobello replaced Scrimale in the third, but the Bearcats added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, plus two in the sixth, in support of Gardner, who held Westhill to three hits and struck out 12 in a complete-game effort.
Chelsie Delperuto went three-for-four and scored three runs. Sydney Cimini tripled and had a team-best three RBIs, while Poli and Molly McGuire each had two hits and drove in two runs apiece. Antonacci scored twice as Gardner and Pidkaminy added single RBIs.
A win over Adirondack would not just mean a sectional repeat, but a chance to go into the state Class B tournament again and face the Section IV champion in Friday’s regional final at the BAGSAI complex near Binghamton for a spot in the June 14 state final four in Glens Falls.