One has been a key contributor to Duanesburg’s recent string of sectional softball success. The other is stepping into a major role.
Duanesburg needed the best efforts of senior pitcher Erika
Hillenbrand and junior leadoff hitter Beth Smith on Monday as the Eagles got past Western Athletic Conference rival Fort Plain, 8-1, in a Class C semifinal at Clifton Common.
Smith drove in four runs from her leadoff spot, and Hillenbrand overpowered the bottom of the Hilltoppers’ lineup to get out of a jam in the fourth inning as Duanesburg kept its shot at a fourth straight Section II title alive.
Hillenbrand snuffed out Fort Plain’s best chance to end three years of playoff torment against the Eagles, working out of a bases-loaded, one-out spot in the top of the fourth inning, one inning after Duanesburg had taken a 3-1 lead.
“If they get back in the game right there, it’s a whole different game,” said Eagles coach John Conway, whose club meets another WAC rival, Canajoharie, in Wednesday’s championship game after ending Fort Plain’s season for the fourth straight year. “We gave them a few breaks to get the bases loaded.”
Hillenbrand, who held the
Nos. 2-3-4 batters in Fort Plain’s lineup hitless, did her best work in preserving an early lead
“Erika is a tough, tough kid. She bore down, and did the job,” said Conway. “That took the wind out of their sails.”
Fort Plain coach Don Stockwell — who, it would turn out, was coaching in the final game of an 18-year run with the Hilltoppers — was even more succinct.
“That absolutely killed us,” he said of not getting at least one run out of the fourth inning. “If I was going to point to one thing, that certainly started our downfall.”
Fort Plain had two triples among its five base hits, but only Haile Mykel’s RBI three-bagger in the second inning resulted in a run.
“We put the bat on the ball. We didn’t do it at the right time,” Stockwell said.
While Hillenbrand got a popup and strikeout to end the fourth, Smith watched anxiously from right field.
“We get a little nervous,” she said. “The nerves are always there, because it’s sectionals, and we want to win.”
Last spring, Smith’s contributions were mostly as a substitute. Monday, she continued to thrive in her role as leadoff hitter.
She tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the home third, then added a two-run single and an RBI single in her next two at-bats as Duanesburg improved to 19-6.
Smith’s approach at the plate is simple.
“I just try to relax. I know how to speed up the bat, or hold my hands back,” she said.
“She’s leading our team in hitting,” said Conway. “She’s our catalyst, right now.”
Eighth-grader Dani Hennel added two hits and two runs batted in, and both Hillenbrand and catcher Danee Fields came up with RBI doubles for Duanesburg.
“We didn’t make some plays we should make, and she [Kelly] had too much of the plate,” said Stockwell, who leaves with a pair of Section II titles and over 200 coaching wins. His teams had a run of five consecutive championship-game appearances snapped with Monday’s loss.
Cougars top Fordians
Canajoharie earned its first spot in a title game since 2005 by holding off Waterford-Halfmoon, 4-3.
The 18-6-1 Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and added single runs in the third and fourth innings.
The Fordians answered with a three-run sixth, highlighted by Jamie VanBramer’s solo homer, before Cougars pitcher Laura Gaydusek got out of the inning.
Heidi Anderson, Gaydusek and Alison Limoncelli all had two hits for the Cougars, with Anderson scoring two runs.
Mechanicville advanced to its ninth title game in 10 years with an 8-1 win over Greenwich in the Class CC semis.
The 17-8 Red Raiders scored twice in each of the first three innings, and sophomore Anna
Arceneaux gave up two hits and one unearned run, striking out 10.
Lindsey McKeever and Toni Liberty led the offense for the Colonial Council runners-up, both collecting three hits, scoring twice and driving in a run.
Lake George beat Hoosick Falls, 3-1, in the other CC semi, as Katelyn Callahan threw a one-hitter for the Adirondack League champion.
DUANESBURG 8, FORT PLAIN 1
Fort Plain 010 000 0 — 1 5 3
Duanesburg 003 032 x — 8 10 2
Budzik and Kane; Hillenbrand, Hochmuth (6) and Fields.
Waterford 000 003 0 — 3 7 0
Canajoharie 201 100 x — 4 9 2
Cahrenger and Robitaille; Gaydusek and Blood.
MECHANICVILLE 8, GREENWICH 1
Greenwich 001 000 0 — 1 2 2
Mechanicville 222 002 x — 8 8 2
Skellie and M.Dusha; Arceneaux and Cervini.
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