MALTA — Colonie started fast.
Shenendehowa answered back.
But, in the end, Colonie’s fast start proved too much for the top-seeded Plainsmen to overcome in Thursday’s Section II Class AA softball semifinal at Luther Forest Athletic Fields, as a pair of early home runs spurred Colonie to a 4-3 win.
“They jumped out with those two home runs, but we inched back with Sophia Caputo’s two-run shot. She got us going, and [then we had] the base hits to drive in another one,” Shenendehowa head coach Chris Farquharson said. “I think we were right there. . . . We hit the balls hard early in the game, but it took us too long and too many innings to get used to [Colonie pitcher Carly Gemmett’s] spin.”
Ultimately, Colonie (No. 4, 13-7) hung on, with an acrobatic, game-ending catch at the center-field fence by Ciana Phillips off a hard-hit ball from Hannah Garrett closing out the season for Shenendehowa (No. 1, 18-3) in the seventh inning. With the win, Colonie advanced to play Bethlehem in Tuesday’s 5 p.m. area championship game back at Luther Forest Athletic Fields.
“Ciana made a huge play here in center field. If she doesn’t make that catch, that’s a tough one to come back from,” Colonie head coach Sean Merchant said. “You have three phases of the game. You have pitching, defense, and offense — and, today, all three phases were clicking, for sure.”
In the top of the first inning, Myaisha Kelly belted a two-run home run to give Colonie a 2-0 lead. Chloe Vanburen would double the lead in the top of the third inning by blasting another two-run home run to put Colonie ahead 4-0.
Would the run continue?
Shenendehowa’s Caputo had other ideas. After an Emily Carroll single in the fourth inning, Caputo launched a two-run home run to cut the Colonie lead to 4-2. Later that inning, Payton Zophy singled, stole second base and scored on an RBI single to center field from Jenna Rivers to pull the Plainsmen within 4-3.
In the seventh inning, Shenendehowa had its last chance to complete its comeback, but Colonie’s defense was up to the test as Gemmett finished off her complete-game effort without allowing a base runner in the final frame.
Gemmett struck out three in seven innings. For Shenendehowa, Mariana Abate struck out six in the first four innings, while Ava Caputo struck out three in pitching three scoreless relief innings.
The season-ending loss stung, Farquharson said, but didn’t define his team’s season.
“We ran into Colonie today. They earned the win,” Farquharson said. “I’m really happy how the team played all season. I love their fight that they put in the middle of the game today. . . . Once we had that shot by Sophia [Caputo], our confidence went right back up.”
While Shenendehowa’s season ended, Colonie will look to repeat its strong effort in Tuesday’s championship game to keep its postseason run going.
“We are going to do the same thing we’ve done all season — have good at-bats, find the pitches that we like,” Merchant said. “We are looking to maintain our confidence. Just come to work like we have all season.”
In its semifinal, third-seeded Bethlehem ousted second-seeded Columbia with an 11-4 win.
For Bethlehem, Haley Nash had a home run and two RBIs, and Aria Losee had three RBIs.
Columbia’s Marissa Daley and Jordan Harbour each had two RBIs.
COLONIE 4, SHENENDEHOWA 3
Colonie 202 000 0 — 4 4 0
Shenendehowa 000 300 0 — 3 5 1
BETHLEHEM 11, COLUMBIA 4
Bethlehem 133 211 0 — 11 12 4
Columbia 000 004 0 — 4 7 1