Down three runs heading into the seventh inning, and facing the returning league MVP with the bottom of the order due up, Shenendehowa’s early-season unbeaten run looked in jeopardy Wednesday.
But the Lady Plainsmen used plate discipline and a well-placed two-run hit to pull out a gutty 5-4 Suburban Council win at fellow unbeaten Colonie.
“We weren’t going to go out there and go down 1-2-3,” said Shenendehowa coach Dan D’Amboise as he sent his Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters up in the seventh against Colonie senior Kelly Lane. “We had to battle back. Kelly pitched a great game, she just opened the door.”
And Shenendehowa literally walked through.
Freshman Kelly Barkevich, junior Brook Zeller and freshman Kelly O’Gorman all worked walks against Lane, Barkevich battling back from an 0-2 count.
Erin Buckley, who had struck out in her first three at-bats, grounded a single up the middle to make it 4-2.
Lane, whose home run in the fifth made it a 4-1 game, nearly extricated herself with a strikeout and a popout, only to see Shenendehowa catcher Caitlin Lawson work a walk to force in a run and reload the bases.
Courtney Hilligas, hitless in her first three at-bats, fell behind, 0-2, fouled off a pitch and looped a 2-2 pitch — the last of the 42 Lane would throw in the inning — into short left field just beyond the reach of Colonie shortstop Stephanie Reinhardt to chase home the final two of Shenendehowa’s four runs in the inning.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen quick pitching like that. It was an adjustment,” said Hilligas, referring to the irregular nature of the early season. “We all were getting kind of fouled off, fouled off, our first at-bats.
“My third at-bat, I got a piece of it. I knew I just had to get the timing down. It worked out.”
“She’s in the five spot for us for a reason. She’s very sound fundamentally, technique-wise,” said D’Amboise. “She’s picking on good pitches.
“She [Lane] put herself in a position where she had to throw one over, and to Courtney’s credit, she was swinging. She has really ramped up her game from her junior year to her senior year. She’s a major, major part of this team.”
Lane and batterymate Kassidy Ogren both hit solo homers off Shenendehowa pitcher Erika Daigle to give Colonie its three-run lead. While Lane issued an uncharacteristic seven walks — six in the final two innings — Daigle did not walk a batter, and retired nine of the 10 Colonie hitters over the final three innings.
Lane was three outs from avenging a 2012 loss to Shenendehowa when she struggled through a long seventh inning.
“I had no intentions, obviously, of walking three batters in a row. I don’t know what happened,” said Lane.
“They beat me pretty good last year, I was excited, because the game was going well. I was just trying to go 1-2-3 in the last inning.”
Lane fought to get the inside corner in the seventh, something she refused to use as an excuse. Colonie coach Kevin Jette, though, felt it made a difference in her approach.
“When you’re in the seventh inning against a good team, and now you’ve got to change your strike zone, that’s tough,” he said. “Daigle was hitting that spot all game, too. We had to work through it.
“They took pitches, that, throughout the rest of the game, they weren’t taking. So, credit to them.”
“We were pretty disciplined at the plate,” said D’Amboise.
Both teams were in the middle of a long week. They both won Monday, and had Tuesday games rained out. Colonie plays today and Friday; Shenendehowa plays Friday and hosts its annual tournament Saturday,
Shenendehowa used Tuesday’s day off to work on hitting.
“Yesterday in practice, we cranked up the [pitching] machine a little bit,” said Hilligas. “We knew she was going to pitch up. We just had to adjust to it and make sure we didn’t go up with her.”
“We made a couple of fielding mistakes, because we’re not outside [enough],” D’Amboise said. “We need more games like this. Colonie needs more games like this. We all need more games like this.”
“I think we played our best game of the year,” said Jette. “Sometimes, it doesn’t fall the way you want it. It’s not the end of the world.
“We’ve got to come back with some heart. We’ve got to bounce back quick.”
Shenendehowa 000 010 4 — 5 6 1
Colonie 000 220 0 — 4 9 1
Daigle and Lawson; Lane and Ogren.