CLIFTON PARK — Shenendehowa’s high-powered offense was quiet for the opening three innings of Thursday’s Section II Class AA softball semifinal against Guilderland.
The Plainsmen, though, didn’t panic.
“We talked about coming in relaxed and not pressing,” Shenendehowa head coach Chris Farquharson said. “We play better when we’re relaxed and we kept that atmosphere in the dugout.”
In the fourth inning, it paid off, as Shenendehowa’s offense got rolling. The Plainsmen scored at least a run in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and that was more support than senior pitcher Mariana Abate needed in a 6-1 win for Shenendehowa.
“We have a lot of seniors on our team and that experience helps,” Abate said after pitching a complete-game win.
Shenendehowa (No. 1, 17-2) will play Bethlehem (No. 2, 13-2) in Saturday’s championship game.
Against fifth-seeded Guilderland, a Shenendehowa squad that has slugged numerous home runs this season was scoreless through three innings. Senior McKenna Barry started the bottom of the fourth inning with a single, and junior teammates Heather Junjulas and Hannah Smith reached base in between outs. With the bases loaded and two outs, a line drive off the bat of senior Ava Caputo scored two to provide Shenendehowa with a cushion.
Shenendehowa added three runs in the fifth. A hard-hit line drive off the bat of senior Michelle Osborn scored two, then an RBI single from Junjulas gave the Plainsmen a 5-0 lead. A home run from sophomore Kelsey Higgins in the sixth inning provided the Plainsmen with their final run.
Laila Smith slugged a home run in the seventh inning, but that was one of Guilderland’s few hard-hit balls against Abate. The senior struck out seven in the contest.
Caputo and Higgins each had two hits for Shenendehowa, while junior Becca Zawistowski had three.
Shenendehowa last won a Section II softball championship in 2015. Bethlehem last won, and appeared in, an area championship game in 2014. Shenendehowa’s loss in the 2016 championship game marked the program’s most-recent appearance in a Section II final.
This season, Caputo said the Plainsmen want to win a championship not only for themselves, but for the program’s 2020 team that never was able to play any games since that spring season was canceled in New York because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This means so much to not only us, but . . . also for all the seniors who didn’t get the opportunity to play last year,” Caputo said.
Due to pandemic-related restrictions, this spring’s playoff tournaments are the first formal Section II tournaments since the winter ones held in 2020.
Farquharson said the chance to compete for a championship wasn’t something his 2021 team has taken for granted.
“First of all, we’re just happy that we were able to have a postseason,” Farquharson said after Thursday’s win. “We’re lucky to have that.”
CLEARY LEADS BETHLEHEM
Anna Cleary struck out 11 batters in Bethlehem’s 3-2 win against Ballston Spa. Cleary didn’t allow any earned runs in the complete-game victory.
Ballston Spa led 2-0 after a two-RBI single from Ana Gold in the third inning. Bethlehem registered its first run with an RBI single from Sohalia Tiu in the fourth inning, then tied the game on an RBI single from Ella Traynor in the fifth. Later in the fifth inning, an RBI sacrifice fly from Jane Reagan put Bethlehem ahead.
Ballston Spa had two runners on base with one out in the seventh inning, but Cleary struck out the final two batters of the contest.
Maggie Lyon pitched five innings for Ballston Spa. All three runs Lyon allowed were unearned.
Bethlehem defeated Shenendehowa 3-0 during the regular season.
SHENENDEHOWA 6, GUILDERLAND 1
Guilderland 000 000 1 — 1 5 2
Shenendehowa 000 231 x — 6 10 0
BETHLEHEM 3, BALLSTON SPA 2
Ballston Spa 002 000 0 — 2 5 2
Bethlehem 000 120 x — 3 7 4