Marlin Solano’s home run to dead center in the home sixth inning was a fitting exclamation point on Shenendehowa’s 9-2 win over Shaker in Wednesday’s Class AA softball semifinal.
“We weren’t going to lose,” said the senior captain, whose 4-for-4 game helped assure top-seeded Shenendehowa of returning to the large-school championship game for the first time in three years.
“This was the biggest one,” she said of the latest of her three home runs this spring. “It’s sectionals. It’s emotional.”
The Plainsmen will play Bethlehem, last year’s runner-up, in Friday’s 5 p.m. championship game at Clifton Common. The Eagles knocked off reigning champion Colonie, 3-1, in another game played at the Lisha Kill Sports Complex.
Shaker split its two Suburban Council games with Shenendehowa, and took a quick 2-0 lead when Julian Thibodeau doubled in a run and scored on a single by Jamie Guerin.
But senior Cameron Sprague slammed the door on the Blue Bison from that point on, giving up just one hit over the final six innings.
“They scored hard at the beginning, and then she shut them down for six innings. That’s pretty amazing for a high school kid to be able to collect herself and do that,” said Shenendehowa coach Dan D’Amboise.
“I just tried to stay as relaxed as possible,” said Sprague, who worked both sides of the plate effectively. “Once I got that [outside] corner, I could go inside more.”
“Cameron stayed very relaxed. You can get hits off her, but she’s going to come back,” Solano said. “She’s been outstanding.”
Sprague’s teammates came back, too.
After leaving two runners in scoring position in the first inning, Shenendehowa got to Shaker junior Erica Vallecorsa for five runs in the second, capped by catcher Caitlin Lawson’s two-run homer down the left field line.
“I didn’t think we had a big enough lead,” Lawson said. “I was just looking for a hit to get the run in.”
Shenendehowa took full advantage of two errors in the inning, which included a sacrifice fly by Amanda Auguston and an RBI single by Sprague.
“We had them on the ropes in the first inning, but we made a mistake by hitting a couple of soft fly balls,” D’Amboise said. “This infield is hard. All we had to do was get on top of the ball, and we probably could have tied it up.
“Their pitcher was pitching up, and we popped it up. The next inning, we adjusted and got it going.
“Caitlin’s home run came when we really needed it. The momentum completely shifted. Now, we can play small ball.”
That was best exemplified when Briana Swota came off the bench and laid down a perfect squeeze bunt in a three-run fifth inning.
‘“Briana is so amazing at that,” said D’Amboise. “A lot of kids were in the lineup, and they all contributed.”
Aly Kramer had two hits, drove in a run and scored once, and Melissa Morgan had two hits.
“That’s what I love about this team. It’s not just a couple of all-stars,” said Solano. “Everyone contributes.”
“The thing that people don’t appreciate is how difficult it is to get to the final,” said D’Amboise. “It’s your goal at the beginning of the season, but it’s a hard thing to accomplish over the course of the season.”
Bethlehem, the No. 3 seed, did all of its scoring in the top of the fourth inning to eliminate second-seeded Colonie.
Meghan Burns hit a one-out single, and Sammy Smaldone followed with a double. Burns was thrown out at home on Mikayla Shade’s fielder’s choice, but Cassie Smith drove a double off the left-field fence to score two runs. Morgan Mazone singled home Smith for the third run.
Freshman pitcher Meagan Sullivan gave up just four hits.
“We’re happy to be back in the final,” said Eagles coach Karen Gentile. “We beat a very good club today. They beat us twice during the year.”
SHENENDEHOWA 9, SHAKER 2
Shaker 200 000 0 — 2 4 2
Shenendehowa 050 031 x — 9 12 2
Vallecorsa and Madison; Sprague and Lawson.
BETHLEHEM 3, COLONIE 1
Bethlehem 000 300 0 — 3 6 3
Colonie 000 100 0 — 1 4 1
Sullivan and Smaldone; Rowland and Fitzgerald.
Categories: High School Sports