AMSTERDAM — One-run games hadn’t been kind to the Amsterdam softball team so far this season.
That was, until Friday.
Amsterdam lost its first two one-run contests of the season, dropping tough games to Scotia-Glenville and Glens Falls, but things turned around Friday afternoon against Schuylerville on the back of a stellar pitching effort from Sydney Szczepanik and one timely hit from Sam Lee.
Szczepanik dominated the Schuylerville hitters, striking out 16 and allowing just one hit, then scored the winning run on Lee’s walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning as Amsterdam earned a dramatic 1-0 victory at Shuttleworth Park.
“I am so happy to win a one-run game right now,” Amsterdam coach Brenden Cetnar said. “Losing the last couple one-runners, you just leave wondering what you could’ve done differently. I didn’t want to have that feeling today, and it finally worked out.”
The game settled in early as a pitching duel between Amsterdam’s Szczepanik and Schuylerville’s Molly Vianese. The two hurlers combined for 31 strikeouts, and the two teams managed just four hits between them.
Szczepanik set down the first 10 hitters she faced before back-to-back Schuylerville hitters reached on errors in the fourth inning, but the Amsterdam senior escaped the jam with a strikeout and a flyout.
The lone hit for Schuylerville came in the fifth inning when Gracelyn Kilburn beat out a bunt single, but she was promptly thrown out by Amsterdam catcher Shelby LaMont when attempting to steal second base.
Szczepanik’s been in the pitcher’s circle for Amsterdam since she was a freshman, and Friday was as good as she’s ever been.
“She was out of her mind today,” Cetnar said. “Unbelievable. You can’t ask for a better performance.”
Szczepanik threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 26 batters she faced and did not face a single three-ball count.
“That’s usually my approach, is to work from ahead [in the count],” she said. “That way, I have room to make mistakes if I have to.”
Amsterdam had runners in scoring position several times in the later innings, including a golden opportunity when Szczepanik reached third base with nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, but Vianese worked her way out of the jam.
“She’s been holding out team together, basically,” Schuylerville coach Amy Weed said of Vianese. “She’s doing a great job.”
Finally, Amsterdam (5-3 Foothills Council, 6-3 overall) broke through in the eighth. Szczepanik started things with a one-out single to right, then LaMont worked a walk. A passed ball moved both runners up a base, and after a strikeout for the inning’s second out, Lee — who had gone 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts to that point — put a single through the middle of the infield to give Amsterdam the win.
“When I was at-bat, it was very stressful,” Lee said, “but, at the end, very happy. I’m just glad that I finally got on base.”
“That was so good,” Szczepanik said. “As soon as I saw [the ball] was going through, I just got so excited.”
It took a second for the celebration to set in, as Schuylerville continued playing even after Szczepanik crossed home plate with the deciding run, but eventually Lee was mobbed by her teammates around second base.
It was the kind of win Cetnar is hoping can set the Lady Rams on a solid path for the final weeks of the regular season.
“These are the ones you remember,” Cetnar said. “This is one we’re not going to forget. Hopefully, it’s a rallying point for the rest of the season.”
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