For four innings, the effects of a layoff of better than a week showed, as Niskayuna and Bethlehem struggled to find their timing at the plate.
Bethlehem recovered late in Tuesday’s Section II Class AA softball quarterfinal. Niskayuna never did. So the fifth-seeded Lady Eagles advanced to today’s semifinal with top-seeded Shenendehowa with a 7-2 win.
“It was different not playing for so long,” said Bethlehem third basesman Genevieve Paeglow, whose leadoff home run opened a three-run fifth inning that gave the Lady Eagles a 4-0 lead. “We hit some indoors, but we really wanted to get back out on the field.”
Bethlehem sophomore pitcher Emma Downing protected a first-inning run, keeping the fourth-seeded Lady Silver Warriors off the scoreboard until the seventh, when the Bethlehem defense, flawless through six innings, committed a pair of errors.
“Emma has really come along this season,” said Bethlehem coach Karen Gentile. “The girls have gotten to trust her.
“She got a little nervous in the seventh, but got it back together.”
“There’s no way I thought we’d get to the seventh inning without scoring a run,” said Niskayuna coach Jules Paul, whose team, like Bethlehem, hadn’t played since
May 17. “We hit some balls well, but they made some great defensive plays. It’s tough to wait a week, play once and your season is over.”
Bethlehem got to Niskayuna starter Gabbie Litz for a run in the first, when Downing followed Carrie Maniccia’s leadoff single with an RBI double. Litz then settled in and matched Downing zero for zero.
“The few times I even thought about changing pitchers, Gabbie got outs,” said Paul.
Bethlehem knew one run would not be enough.
“Coach always tells us to keep scoring runs,” said Bethlehem center fielder Mikayla Shade, who had two hits, scored a run and drove in one. “Every run is important.”
“It was a challenge,” said Gentile of trying to keep her team sharp while waiting out a series of storms that pushed the game back five days. “They want to play, but it’s something you can’t control.”
Paeglow’s home run stayed just fair down the left-field line.
“I saw it, and knew it was going to be close,” said Paeglow, whose team beat Niskayuna, 4-1, during the Suburban Council season. “I was hoping it was going to stay fair.”
Niskayuna’s second error of the game led to a pair of unearned runs in the fifth. Leadoff hitter Maniccia drove in a run in the sixth. In the seventh, K.K. Palmerino singled in a run and Paeglow hit a sacrifice fly to make it 7-0.
Niskayuna loaded the bases to begin the home seventh, helped when Maniccia mishandled what could have been a double-play grounder. Bridget Wooley ripped an RBI single to center, with a second run scoring when Schade misplayed the ball.
Downing got Litz on a short field, induced Jules Sherman to foul out and got the last out when Maniccia came up the carom off her Downing’s glove and trapped Wooley heading to third.
“When we got the break on the ground ball, and then Bridget got her hit, I thought, ’This could get interesting,’ ” said Paul. “I’m just glad the girls went down fighting.”
Bethlehem, now 11-8, feels its chances are as good as anyone’s in the Class AA tournament.
“Our goal every year is to win sectionals,” said Schade. “If we can hit like we did today, we have a good chance.”
“This year, the Suburban Council was even tougher than usual, more competitive,” said Gentile. “If we keep playing like we did today, we could win it.”
Bethlehem 100 032 1 — 7 11 2
Niskayuna 000 000 2 — 2 4 2
Downing and Rorick; Litz and Atchinson.