By Rob Potter
QUEENSBURY The Livingston Manor Lady Wildcats are again the best Class D softball team in New York State.
With an 8-0 win over the Section V champion Batavia Notre Dame Lady Fighting Irish on Saturday evening at The Adriondack Sports Complex in Queensbury, Manor earned its second straight New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class D title.
Senior pitcher Marissa Diescher led Manor (17-1) by hitting a two-run home run in the top of the first inning and then throwing a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts.
Junior right fielder Maggi Calo led off the game with a single to center field and stole second base. After an out was recorded, Diescher stepped up to the plate and connected solidly with a pitch from Batavia Notre Dame’s Carly Pike and sent the ball over the left field fence.
The Lady Wildcats added to their lead in the top of the third. With one out, Jami Sedlacek, who entered the game as a courtesy runner for Victoria Taggart after Taggart singled, scored on a base hit by Samantha Scott.
Scott scored on a passed ball later in the inning to give Manor a 4-0 advantage.
Manor doubled its lead in the top of the fourth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Scott, Paige Clancy and Angela Zayas all patiently drew walks to make it a 7-0 game.
Scott then scored the game’s final run on a passed ball.
In the bottom of the sixth, Batavia Notre Dame’s Burgundy Bartlett walked to spoil Diescher’s bid for a perfect game. The next batter, Laurie Call, bunted to try and move Bartlett to second base. But third baseman Clancy fielded the ball and quickly threw it to shortstop Zayas to force out Bartlett at second.
Diescher then ended the frame with a strikeout.
In the bottom of the seventh, Diescher, who, like many of her teammates, was struggling to hold back tears, struck out the final two batters.
“This is amazing, it’s something I’ll look back at forever,” Diescher said of winning two consecutive state championships. “It is really great.”
Diescher noted that the tears she and her teammates were shedding in the final inning were out of happiness and sadness.
“It’s the last time we’re all playing together,” she said, referring to fellow seniors Christine Babich, Paige Clancy, Victoria Taggart and Angela Zayas. “We’ll all keep in touch and Christine [Babich] will be my best friend forever.”
Babich, the Lady Wildcats’ second baseman, and Diescher have been best friends since before they started Pre-Kindergarten.
“It hit us in the last inning that it was the last time we would be playing together on the same field,” Babich said of the emotions in the game’s final moments. “We’ll all keep in touch, but it’s kind of sad.”
Of course, defending their Class D state championship was reason for Babich and her teammates to cry out of happiness.
“It’s amazing, it’s such a great feeling,” she said.
Diescher, who noted that she “got all of it” when she hit her two-run homer, said getting the early lead against Batavia Notre Dame was key.
“It is easier to pitch with that lead,” she said.
Calo was pleased to get the Lady Wildcats' offense going with her leadoff single.
“It definitely gave us confidence,” said Calo, who had another single later in the game. “Once Marissa hit the ball, I just sprinted around third base and then to home.”
While losing those five seniors, the majority of the Lady Wildcats are returning for next season.
“This is a great feeling to win two championships in a row,” Calo said. “We’re making history.
“A lot of us will be back next season and we have a lot of talented players coming up,” she added.
“We have a great group of kids who work hard,” Manor Co-Coach Kevin Clifford said. “These kids have made this a great program and we have high expectations for the future.”
The Lady Fighting Irish reached the championship game by shutting out Section X champion Heuvelton, 16-0, in the semifinals.
“Manor certainly deserves to be Class D state champions again,” Batavia Notre Dame Coach Rick Mancuso said. “There’s a big difference trying to hit against a girl who is throwing the ball 50 miles per hour and a girl like [Marissa] Diescher who is pitching 65 miles per hour.”
Mancuso noted that his team had a great season and the future bodes well as only one player will be graduating later this month.
Manor tops Hamilton in semifinal game
Manor reached the championship game by defeating Section III champion Hamilton, 3-1, in a semifinal game that was played at South Glens Falls High School due to the weather and field conditions.
Diescher gave the Lady Wildcats a 1-0 lead with an inside-the-park home run in the top of the first inning.
Scott began the top of the fourth with a triple and scored on a passed ball.
Manor pushed its lead to 3-0 in the top of the fifth when Diescher scored on a wild pitch.
Hamilton (22-3) scored its run in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Katie Weeks walked and stole second base. Weeks stole third base as a teammate struck out and then crossed the plate on a wild pitch.
Diescher, who had 14 strikeouts in the game, walked the next batter, Becca Rogers. But Diescher ended the frame with a strikeout.
Clifford noted that taking the lead early in a game in which the rain caused both teams to make some mistakes was very important.
“I think it was a case of nerves by both teams early on,” he said. “But getting that run in the first inning got our team going. It was a great team effort.”
Clifford also praised the Lady Emerald Knights.
“Hamilton has a great team and their pitcher [Becca Rogers] is an eighth-grader,” he said. “They should be back here in the upcoming seasons.”
“It’s disappointing to lose this game, but I told our players they had nothing to be a ashamed of,” Hamilton Coach William Dowsland said. “We had a good season and we have a young team. This experience will help build their confidence.
“There’s a reason Marissa Diescher is a D-1 athlete,” Dowsland added. “Penn State is getting a great pitcher.”
“Two no-hitters today is amazing,” Manor Co-Coach Charlie Hicks said moments after the championship game. “Marissa is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen and the best player I’ve coached.”
“The whole team played well today, it was a great effort by everybody,” Hicks said.
Notes: After the semifinal game, one player from each team was presented with a sportsmanship award. Senior third baseman Sara Whyatt received the award for Hamilton and junior outfielder Nina Zheng received the award for Manor.
Last Thursday, Diescher was named the 2010-2011 Gatorade New York Softball Player of the Year. The award, which is presented by the Gatorade Company in collaboration with ESPN RISE, recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field.
Diescher is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year Award which will be announced later this month.
The 5-foot-9 right-hander who completed her scholastic career with 24 no-hitters and 1,167 strikeouts will play on scholarship at Penn State University.
She was pleased to receive such a prestigious award.
“When I first heard about it, I was happy but I was really focused on our team and trying to win these two games today,” Diescher said moments after celebrating the Lady Wildcats’ second consecutive state title with teammates, coaches, family members and fans. “It’s a really special honor.”