MORICHES BAY – Just four outs separated Greene from its first-ever state softball title….
“It’s hard because we were so close,” said first-year Greene coach Judi Mansheffer said of her team’s 4-1 loss to Greenwich in the NYSPHSAA Class C championship game.
Down 1-0, the Section II champion Witches tied the game with two outs in the top of the sixth and, in extra innings, plated three more runs in the eighth inning to pull out the victory Saturday afternoon at the Moriches Sports Complex on Long Island.
The Trojans (23-1) reached the title game with a 1-0 victory in eight innings over S.S. Seward in the morning semifinal.
Greene was seemingly in control of the championship game – senior pitcher Olivia Kennedy picking up her 14th and 15th strikeouts of the game to start the top of the sixth. However, a two-out walk to Faith Ingber set up a messy sequence of events that led to the tying run.
Kennedy, who struck out 38 batters over two games, including 20 in the semifinals, fanned Jocelyn Spiezio on a ball in the dirt that got away from catcher McKenzie Scott. An alert Spiezio took off to first base but the throw was late and low, allowing Spiezio to reach. The ball got away and another errant throw allowed Ingber to score all the way from first base and put Spiezio at third. Kennedy ended the inning by inducing a groundout to second.
After Greenwich went down in order in the top of the seventh, Greene’s Dayani Lora reached on a two-out error in the bottom of the seventh, but was left stranded, sending the game to extra innings.
Unlike the semifinal victory, there would be no happy ending for the Trojans in the eighth of this game.
Reece Autiello led off the top of the eighth with misplayed double to left. Kiley Allen followed with walk and both runners moved up on a groundout to second.
Ingber then hit a hard grounder to third that Rhea Malmquist knocked down, but her throw home was late, allowing Autiello to score the go-ahead run. Allen saw an opening and never stopped running, scoring on the same play. Ingber would later score on a wild pitch.
The Trojans went down in order in the bottom of the eighth.
Kennedy, the reigning NYS Class C Player of the Year, allowed just two misplayed hits while fanning 18 and two walks. The Caldwell University-bound righty did not allow an earned run all season long.
“Olivia pitched her heart out, coach Mansheffer said. “She did everything we could have asked of her and more to get us here.”
“(Kennedy) was impressive,” said longtime Greenwich coach Bill Curley, who suffered a mini-stroke a week earlier but was well enough to coach his team to its second state title – ironically both of them coming against Greene. The Witches got the best of the Trojans in 2012.
Greene could never get the bats going all weekend. After collecting six hits in the semifinals, Greenwich pitcher Lily McCauliffe held the Trojans to Scott’s leadoff triple in the bottom of the fourth inning – scoring Greene’s lone run on a two-out groundout by Kylie Ferris. McCauliffe, who missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on her pitching elbow, struck out nine with no walks.
“Our bats went cold today and when we did get runners on, we didn’t execute bunts – something we’ve been good at all season,” said coach Mansheffer, who took over the team after 16 years as an assistant at Afton.
Greene reached the championship game when Kennedy led off the bottom of the eighth with a sharp single to leftfield. Pinch-runner Adreana Romano came on and scored from first with the winning run when Scott crushed a double to deep right-centerfield.
Ferris, Payton Yahner, Faith Tierno and Kenzie Button also picked up hits against the Section IX champions (19-2). Losing pitcher Kailey Stolowski struck out.
The 23 victories were a school-record for Greene, who lose Kennedy, Ferris, Romano and Tierno to graduation.
“We had a goal of getting to states, which we did. Even though we came up a game short, I can’t be prouder of these girls for the amount of time and effort they put in this spring to get here,” coach Mansheffer said. “But…as great as they were as softball players, they are so much better people.”
NYSPHSAA Class C Softball Championships
(Saturday at Moriches Sports Complex)
Greenwich 4, Greene 1 (8 Innings)
Greenwich 000 001 03 – 4 2 1
Greene 000 100 00 – 1 1 3
WP – Lily McCauliffe; LP – Olivia Kennedy
Greene 1, S.S. Seward 0
S.S. Seward 000 000 00 – 0 1 1
Greene 000 000 01 – 1 6 0
WP – Olivia Kennedy; LP – Kailey Stolowski