MALTA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — You’ve heard of “March Madness”; now prepare yourselves for “May Malta Mania.”
Luther Forest Athletic Fields in Malta was the site of four Section II sectional semifinal softball games Tuesday night, and will play host to four championship games Thursday.
The two teams representing Class A in the title match are top-seeded South Glens Falls and the two-seed Troy. The Bulldogs advanced with a 5-4 win over Averill Park thanks to some late-game heroics from sophomore shortstop Kylee Craft. Meanwhile, the Flying Horses will make a second straight championship game performance after a 5-0 victory over third-seeded Burnt Hills that was fueled by yet another stellar outing from senior pitcher Olivia DeCitise.
South Glens Falls got all it could handle from a dangerous, fourth-seeded Warriors squad that was right in the thick of the Suburban Council race this season. After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead, starting pitching Tori Young did her best to preserve it, recording inning-ending punchouts in both the third and fourth frames.
But she ran into some trouble in the fifth inning, as Averill Park managed to get runners on the corners with two outs. Catcher Maisie Dawson brought both Warriors home with one swing of the bat: a two-run triple to center field that knotted the game up.
A-P continued to apply pressure in the sixth, as the first two batters of the inning reached base safely. After South Glens Falls’ Jessica Beames struck out the next Warriors batter, she could not get past first baseman Maryssa Crosier, who roped a double to left that plated both runners, giving A-P its’ first lead of the game at 4-2.
But the Bulldogs did not back down, answering in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs; the game-tying score coming on an RBI single from designated player Autumn Roberts.
After Beames retired the side to start the seventh, South Glens Falls had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the inning.
Craft stepped to the dish with two outs and the winning run 60 feet away. Down to her final strike, she barreled up a pitch on the inner half of the plate, and pulled it on the ground in the hole on the left side of the infield. The ball was knocked down at deep short, but Craft easily beat the throw to first for a game-winning RBI single that moved the Bulldogs a game closer to capturing the Class A crown.
Even in the face of a pressure moment, Craft kept her approach at the plate simple.
“I was looking to just put the ball in play,” said Craft. “I was ready for the inside (pitch). She had been pounding them all inside, and I was just ready to turn on it. We definitely just had to hold our cool, and know that we could come back. It was a team win; we all contributed.”
Head coach Marissa Macey’s confidence in her group never wavered, even trailing two runs in the sixth inning. And with a chance to win the game in the seventh, she knew her team could execute in a big moment.
“I have the luxury of having 18 players that any one of them can do the job,” said Macey. “So, I don’t care who’s at-bat; I know they can all lay a bunt down, and in a pressure situation, get a hit. So, I’m super proud of Kylee for coming through, but everybody did their job throughout the game to make that happen.”
Meanwhile, on the next field over, Olivia DeCitise treated the Troy faithful to another pitching masterclass. After creating her own offense with an RBI single to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning, DeCitise went on to toss a complete game, two-hit shutout, while racking up 10 strikeouts.
The Flying Horses lineup showed balance from top-to-bottom, as six of the nine starters recorded hits, and four different batters logged an RBI. The nine-hitter, Vanessa Quinn, recorded two RBI without even registering a hit; one came on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth, and the other on a successful safety squeeze play that went in the scorebook as an RBI fielder’s choice.
South Glens Falls and Troy will meet up for the first time this season in Thursday’s championship game. The Flying Horses are the reigning sectional champs. First pitch from Malta is set for 5:00 p.m.