By Rob Potter
JEFFERSONVILLE June 2, 2006 The Section IX Class B quarterfinal game between Pine Plains and host Sullivan West that took place on Tuesday afternoon in Jeffersonville featured just about everything one would expect from a postseason softball contest.
There were home runs, dominant pitchers, good defensive plays and even an extra inning of exciting action.
When the dust on the basepaths settled, the fifth-seeded Pine Plains Lady Bombers had earned a 3-2 victory over the fourth-seeded Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs.
With the win, Pine Plains (8-10) advanced to face top-seeded Marlboro in the semifinals. SW ended its season with a record of 5-8.
The Lady Bombers recorded the win with a run in the top of the eighth inning. With one out, Jessalyn Sweeney singled to center field. A few seconds later, with teammate Roxanne Myer in the batters box, Sweeney ran to second base on a wild pitch. Myer then ripped a single into center field and SWs Cara Davies quickly snared the softball in her glove.
Davies then fired the ball to third base in the hopes of throwing out Sweeney. The throw was high and SW third baseman Rachel Houghtaling jumped up to try and catch the ball and avoid Sweeney, who was sliding into the bag.
As Houghtaling ran into foul territory to grab the ball, Sweeney got up and sprinted down the line. Sweeney crossed home plate to give the Lady Bombers a 3-2 lead.
Pine Plains pitcher Abby Harpp set down the Lady Bulldogs in order in the bottom of the frame. Harpp induced a groundout and then struck out the next two batters to secure her teams dramatic one-run victory.
Harpp finished the afternoon with 16 strikeouts and allowed only four hits.
The biggest SW hit came from Houghtalings bat in the bottom of the fourth. With one out and Ginger Pierce, who led off the frame with a single, on base, Houghtaling blasted a pitch from Harpp into the right field corner. The ball just eluded the glove of right fielder Tabby Brennan and rolled into the deepest corner of the field.
As the Lady Bulldogs and their fans cheered loudly, Houghtaling sprinted around the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park homer. The blast tied the game at 2-2.
Pine Plains opened the scoring with a run in the top of the third. With one out, Eve Devean reached base on an error. She promptly stole second base and advanced to third on a groundout by Jackie Inseriello. Devean gave the Lady Bombers a 1-0 lead when she raced down the line and crossed home plate on a wild pitch.
The Lady Bombers added a run in the top of the fourth. With the bases empty and one out, Sweeney ripped a pitch from SWs Sarah Lander into deep center field. The ball sailed across the designated home-run line and Sweeney jogged around the bases to give Pine Plains a 2-0 advantage.
While the game was tied at 2-2, SW had a couple of opportunities to take the lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Kristen Niemann ripped a leadoff single to left field and Pierce followed with a bloop single to center field to put two runners on base with no outs. But Harpp responded by striking out the next three batters.
Then with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Katie Moloney was on third base and Jennifer Pitz was on second. But Harpp ended the inning with a strikeout to once again close the door on a Lady Bulldogs scoring threat.
The last time we played them, our pitcher [Harpp] threw a perfect game, Pine Plains Coach Mary Alm said. It was their first game of the year and they have improved since then. We knew they would be fired up for this game.
The Lady Bombers leader gave much of the credit for the victory to Harpp and Sweeney.
Abby is just a great pitcher and shes only a sophomore, Alm said. Jessalyn is a really good athlete and a really good ballplayer.
In addition to Houghtaling, key players for the Lady Bulldogs included Lander and Pierce. Lander, a sophomore, pitched all eight innings, allowing only five hits while striking out four batters. Pierce was 2-for-3 on the afternoon.
It was a good game and we had our chances, SW Coach Mike Ellmauer said. Hopefully, we can use this as a learning experience.
Ellmauer credited Pine Plains with playing a great game. He noted that the homer by Sweeney was the first conventional round-tripper hit at Hughson Field in the 15 seasons that the Jeffersonville-Youngsville and SW softball teams have played their home games there.
The veteran coach praised his team for a good season.
Look at where we are now compared to the beginning of the year, Ellmauer commented. We didnt have any mental errors today.
Ellmauer will miss the three seniors on the Lady Bulldogs roster Genna Delgado, Moloney and Allison Swendsen but looking forward to the 2007 season.
We should have a good nucleus of players coming back next year, he said. Im disappointed now, but tomorrow I will be excited about next season.