The final three outs of Averill Park’s 5-4 softball win at Shenendehowa on Thursday showed how little separates the best teams in the Suburban Council.
“Tough, tough league this year,” said Averill Park coach Ken Bailey, whose team leads a tightly-bunched South Division with a 9-1 league record. “That was a good example. You can never relax.”
Using a third-inning two-run double from Caroline Wood, the Lady Warriors were up, 5-1, and three outs from their first win over the Lady Plainsmen since joining the league.
Shenendehowa battled to hold on to that piece of history, getting five base hits to score three runs and leave the bases loaded when senior Courtney McDonnell’s bid for the game-winning hit settled into the glove of AP center fielder Tori Fischer for the final out.
“If we had scored one more run earlier, we wouldn’t have been in that position,” said Shenendehowa coach Dan D’Amboise, whose team went to 8-2 in the league, 12-2 overall.
“I thought if we held them to five runs, we would be OK. Credit their pitcher for that,”
Brittany Meka kept Shenendehowa at bay after Wood broke a 1-1 tie, facing just two batters over the minimum 12 from the third through sixth innings.
Her teammates gave her more of a cushion with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, as Averill Park bounced back from Monday’s 10-0 loss to Columbia.
“To bounce back with a win against one of the best teams in the league, that’s a very positive sign,” said Bailey.
Not that it didn’t get dicey.
Freshman Nicole McCarvill led off the seventh with a hit that fell between Meka and shortstop Kelly Donnelly, who had a 3-for-3 game at the plate.
Melissa Nealon’s looper found grass in front of Fisher, and after a force out, Taylor Fitzgerald hit a ball to deep right field that got McCarvill home.
Kelly O’Gorman made it 5-4 with a two-run single, then Marissa Kirker singled off Meka’s glove.
Senior Brook Zeller dug out of a 1-2 count to work an eight-pitch walk that loaded the bases and moved the winning run to second base.
That prompted a visit from Bailey.
“I was going to take her out, but the girls all said to leave her in, and she said she wanted to finish,” Bailey said. “She didn’t have the best luck in that inning, with a couple of hits blooping in.”
Meka rewarded her coach and teammates by getting the last out.
“We’ve been playing well, up until Monday,” said Bailey. “The top of our order [Donnelly, Mckenzie Bump and Caroline Wood] has been hitting, and we’ve been playing good defense.”
“I thought we executed very well, our bats just didn’t come around until late,” said D’Amboise, whose team will be without injured senior third baseman Erin Buckley for the remainder of the season. “Averill Park has a good team.
“If we play this well when we get to sectionals, I think we’ll do very well.”
Shenendehowa came into the game averaging just under 10 runs a game.
“We’ve got some good hitters this year, but our pitching isn’t getting a lot of strikeouts, so we have to play good defense,” said D’Amboise. “It’s hard to ask high school players to be flawless all the time.”
The Lady Plainsmen still own a comfortable lead in the SC North, and play at Guilderland today. The Lady Dutch are in that five-team pack in the SC South that also includes Colonie, Bethlehem and Columbia.
“We’ve got to go through the division again,” said Bailey. “We finish up with Columbia, which could be for the division title.”
Averill Park 102 011 0 — 5 10 0
Shenendehowa 010 000 3 — 4 8 0
Meka and Hoffman; Fitzgerald, Kelley (6) and Nealon.