Cicero 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.