AVERILL PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — When Troy softball’s eighth grade first baseman, Kaylee Kussler, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in extra innings, and the game tied at two with Suburban Council foe Averill Park, she had one pitch that she was looking for, and she didn’t miss it.
“An inside, low fastball that I can hit very well,” said Kussler after her two-run single to left field that propelled the Flying Horses to a 4-2 win. “All of our energy that we gained throughout, and had to battle (for)…we fought right through it (the finish line).”
Troy and Averill Park squared off on the diamond Friday afternoon for the first time since last year’s Class A semifinals. Troy eked out a 5-3 win in that game, en route to claiming a sectional championship. While Averill Park could not enact its’ revenge in Friday’s rematch, the two sides provided another Suburban Council classic.
Kussler’s extra-inning heroics put the finishing touches on a remarkable pitching duel. The Flying Horses had their workhorse, senior Olivia DeCitise, who shared the circle with the Warriors’ starting pitcher, Taylor Schoonmaker.
DeCitise got off to a rocky start in the first inning, loading the bases for Schoonmaker, who managed to provide herself some run support with a two-run single down the right-field line that gave A-P an early edge.
But DeCitise buckled down from there, allowing just one hit the rest of the game. She recorded punch-out No. 19 to end things in the bottom of the eighth, earning the complete-game victory.
The southpaw said she has great relationships with a number of the Averill Park players, and that induced some first-inning jitters that she had to quickly work through.
“I was just a little nervous goin’ into the first inning,” said DeCitise. “But after…I was done with the first inning, I just got out of my head, and just threw for me. My screwball and my rise ball…they (Averill Park) just were not liking the outside, and I just started hammering it. This is a really, really big win, and I think we’re gonna do great the rest of the season.”
Schoonmaker matched DeCitise into the eighth inning, but was pulled after Kussler’s go-ahead knock. The junior hurler still tossed seven-and-a-third innings, allowing four runs, while striking out seven.
What made Kussler’s at-bat even more dramatic was that Averill Park elected to intentionally walk DeCitise, which loaded the bases for Kussler. But head coach Sean Geisel had total confidence in his eighth grade cleanup hitter.
“She’s in that spot for a reason,” said Geisel. “I know I’m confident, but more importantly, everyone on the bench is confident. They see Kaylee work every day. She got that pitch; great barrel to left field. We scored two runs. Huge win overall for our team.”
Kussler finished 2-4 with the two RBI. Third baseman Ava Salvaggio also knocked in a pair of runs on two hits.
Troy (5-2) returns home for its’ next matchup Monday against reigning Class AA champ Saratoga Springs. First pitch is set for 4:15 p.m. Averill Park (3-3) hits the road Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. tilt at Sec. IX’s Saugerties.