Tuesday, October 26, 2021

PSUC softball survives day one of SUNYAC tournament

After losing Thursday in its first game at the SUNYAC championships, Plattsburgh State’s softball team needed to play against Buffalo State like there was no tomorrow, and an extra-inning win meant at least one tomorrow would come.

The tournament in Geneseo, New York, began inauspiciously for PSUC (19-18), who dropped a 7-2 decision to SUNY Cortland (20-17) in the 11 a.m. game.

The Cards opened the scoring with a 2-0 sixth-inning lead.

“We were feeling good,” said Stephanie Conroy, PSUC head coach. “But we knew Cortland is good, so we weren’t feeling incredibly comfortable.”

PSUC’s lead evaporated in a disastrous seven-run half-inning, which began with a trio of walks by senior pitcher Katie Pitkin.

“They hit the ball well,” Conroy said. “It’s not just one person. Our whole defense just didn’t play well.”

In place of Pitkin, fellow senior Taylor Smith stepped into the circle to finish the game. She got out of the inning, but not before the Red Dragons brought their score to seven.

The Cards failed to score in the final inning, and played an elimination game against Buffalo State (11-20) that same afternoon.

Preparation was complicated by SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Oswego playing four extra innings.

“We were just waiting,” Conroy said. “We didn’t expect it to go that long. But it’s always good to watch great softball.”

After the game started at 4:45 p.m., nearly two hours later than scheduled, the Cards trailed 3-2 after three innings. While they took a lead in the fifth, a throwing error tied the game in the seventh.

With Pitkin still in the circle, her second start of the day, the Bengals failed to score in the top of the eighth. Conroy felt that limiting Buffalo State to three hits and two walks in the second game was more indicative of Pitkin’s day than the one poor inning against Cortland.

“Katie Pitkin threw two solid games today,” Conroy said. “I’m really proud of her.”

PSUC’s path to victory began when senior left fielder Dominique Zummo singled to right field before advancing to second off senior right fielder Amanda Tantillo’s sacrifice bunt. Conroy then decided to put junior Jennifer Sarcone in Zummo’s place.

“Zummo’s leg was hurting her,” Conroy said. “We wanted to have fresh legs out there.”

Sarcone is a junior, but will be graduating at the end of this season. The game could have been her last.

“It’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush,” Sarcone said. “You’re just watching the game, and then suddenly you have to put yourself in that position even though you’re not the one that got there.”

Smith, who still had her own role to play, was happy to see Sarcone get the nod.

“She’s a huge part of this team, and for me especially,” Smith said of Sarcone. “She’s my bullpen catcher. I couldn’t do what I do without her.”

After the Bengals intentionally walked senior Kelsey Gage to target a struggling Felicia Torres, Conroy responded with another substitution, putting Smith in as a pinch hitter.

“She’s a great hitter,” Conroy said of the relief pitcher. “My assistant just had a hunch, and we went with it.”

Smith didn’t hesitate when she found out she was going in.

“I was actually pretty excited,” Smith said. “I like to bat. To be in that situation, I was pumped.”

Smith got the single, but Sarcone only advanced to third.

“It was a hard-hit fly,” Sarcone said. “You have to decide if you are willing to take that risk. I knew I didn’t need to, so I listened to my coach. It was one step closer.”

With Sarcone on third, junior catcher Anna Fisher approached the plate knowing she only needed to hit the ball deep for a sacrifice fly to win.

When that ball was put in play, the focus was on Sarcone. While telling herself “run as fast as you can,” Sarcone was confident she would beat the throw to home.

“I’m a catcher,” Sarcone said, “and I knew, based on her positioning, I pretty much had it.”

With the 5-4 win, the Cards earned at least one more day in the tournament. The team is scheduled to play at 1 p.m. Friday against either Cortland or Oneonta. The quick turnaround did not bother Conroy.

“It’s better than playing at 9 a.m.,” Conroy said.

PSUC was happy to advance, and Smith felt the way they did it showed potential moving forward.

“In the second game we came together as a team,” Smith said. “I think that we can beat any team in this tournament.”

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