By Rob Potter
SLATE HILL For seven regulation innings and two extra frames of the Section IX Class D softball title game on Saturday afternoon at Minisink Valley Middle School in Slate Hill, Livingston Manor pitcher Marissa Diescher and S.S. Seward pitcher Michelle Dugan put zeros on the scoreboard.
But both pitchers finally allowed the opposing team to score in the 10th inning. Unfortunately for Diescher and her Lady Wildcat teammates, they could only manage one run while the Lady Spartans scored twice.
With its dramatic 2-1 victory, second-seeded Seward (11-10) advanced to the state Class D semifinals. Seward, which receives a bye in the first round of the state playoffs, will meet the winner of the opening round contest between the Section III and Section IV champions in a semifinal game on Saturday, June 13 at Waterloo High School.
Manor, which was the No. 1 seed in the Class D tournament and won the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division VI championship with a perfect 8-0 record, ended its season with an overall record of 16-4.
Two of the Lady Wildcats’ OCIAA Div. VI regular-season victories were against the Lady Spartans. The Lady Wildcats defeated Seward 5-2 in Florida and 1-0 in the Manor.
After the teams battled to a scoreless tie in nine innings on Saturday, the international tie-breaker rule was implemented for the 10th inning. Under that rule, the batter who made the last out for her team during the previous inning begins the 10th inning on second base.
In the top of the 10th, that runner was Seward’s Shannon O’Sullivan. The first batter of the inning, Dana Vazquez, bunted the ball towards the pitcher’s circle. Diescher got to the ball quickly and threw it to shortstop Angela Zayas, who was covering third base, in an attempt to cut down O’Sullivan at third. But O’Sullivan successfully slid under Zayas’ tag to give the Lady Spartans runners at first and third.
Elizabeth Gorshack then bunted the ball so well that no throw was made to first base.
With the bases loaded and still no outs, Caitlin Lemire bunted the ball, sending it just a few feet in front of home plate. Diescher ran to the ball, but slipped as she reached down to grab it. As Diescher tried to grasp the ball, O’Sullivan slid across home plate for the game’s first run.
After Diescher recorded a strikeout, Jeanine Folkl, who had entered the game moments earlier as a pinch-runner for Vazquez, scored on a passed ball to give Seward a 2-0 lead.
But Diescher struck out the next batter and threw out Danielle Stam at first base after she bunted to end the inning.
Maggi Calo began the bottom of the 10th at second base for the Lady Wildcats. Calo didn’t remain there for long, however, as she scored on Zayas’ single to left field.
Emily Casey then grounded out to second base. But it was a productive out since Zayas moved to third base as Casey was thrown out at first.
But Dugan got the next two batters to line out and ground out, respectively, to end the game.
Diescher and Dugan both gave excellent performances in the pitcher’s circle. Diescher, a sophomore, allowed just one hit and recorded 22 strikeouts. Dugan, a senior, gave up four hits and had 13 strikeouts.
“We made some mistakes and they took advantage of them,” Manor Co-Coach Kevin Clifford said. “Seward made the plays when they had to.
“We were a little nervous at times,” Clifford added. “This was a good experience to get the nerves out for next year.”
“It was a good game,” Manor Co-Coach Charlie Hicks said. “Both teams played really well. We had some chances to score some runs with a hit and we couldn’t do it.
“You have to tip your hat to Seward,” Hicks added. “Michelle Dugan did a great job. She mixed up her pitches very well.”
Seward Coach Don Lewis praised his players for “playing with a lot of heart today.”
“We kept battling against Marissa Diescher, who is a really incredible pitcher,” he said. “She’s awesome.
“I thought the pivotal play was Shannon’s slide into third base,” Lewis added. “She was able to get there and then scored our first run. And then Jeanine scored on the passed ball.”
The loss was very tough for the Lady Wildcats. While they stood along the first base line during the postgame awards ceremony, many of them looked down at the infield dirt and wiped tears from their eyes.
“It’s disappointing to lose this game,” Clifford said. “But we had a great season overall. We finished with a 15-4 record last year and a 16-4 record this year.
“We have a great group of players coming back next year,” he added.
The Lady Wildcats will lose only three seniors Kym Potter, Kaylee Velez and Marina Zayas to graduation later this month.