PORTVILLE — After surviving a few tense late innings with Cattaraugus-Little Valley, the Portville softball team is back to where its season ended a year ago.
For the third consecutive year, the Panthers will play for a sectional title against Chautauqua Lake. And this time, in a rubber match, Portville hopes to avenge a season-ending loss to the Thunderbirds in last year’s Section 6 Class C-1 final.
The No. 2 Panthers defeated No. 3 C-LV, 7-2, in Tuesday’s C-1 semifinal. The Timberwolves outhit the Panthers 7-6, but a few dazzling inning-ending defensive plays ensured Portville held on to its lead after going ahead 4-0 after two innings.
“They hit the ball really well, but always seem to hit the ball really well,” Panthers coach Bill Torrey said. “I think, luckily for us, we were able to make some really nice plays defensively to keep them out of reach, but we also were able to manufacture runs better today. It’s just a good, clean softball game.”
C-LV reached base all seven innings and stranded 12 runners. By comparison, Portville left six runners on in six innings at the plate. The Timberwolves left the bases loaded after scoring their first run in the fourth, as Portville’s Faith Capito made a diving catch along the foul line in right field. Portville escaped jams the following two innings as well, stranding two runners each, including on a throw from Sierra Keim in left field to catcher Mia Hlasnick to end the sixth.
Armed with hindsight, C-LV coach Heather Kagelmacher said she didn’t regret sending runner Lauren Eaton, who had doubled, around third on Emma Rupp’s two-out hit as the T-Wolves trailed 6-2 in the sixth.
“It takes a good throw, a good catch and a good tag to get her out,” Kagelmacher said. “She’s a fast runner. She’s going to sectionals for track for the 100 and 200, she can obviously run. I couldn’t leave her out here with two outs. I just had to try it. It takes a good play and they made one.”
Portville pitcher Brooke DeYoe allowed seven hits, striking out two and walking five.
Karly Welty went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two stolen bases. DeYoe drove in a pair, with an RBI single and a sac fly. Jillian Hlasnick (3 runs) and Felecia Capito also hit RBI singles and Mia Hlasnick produced a run with a walk, two stolen bases and scored on a passed ball in the third.
Portville scored five of its eight runs, including its first four, in two-out situations.
“Anything can happen on any given day and the girls today made some key hits at opportune times and made some really nice plays when it was the other way around,” Torrey said. “I’m just proud of the girls’ effort. They’re playing really hard and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it going.”
For C-LV, Rupp went 3-for-4, Eaton doubled and Mackenzie Ryan and Emily Horth both hit RBI singles.
C-LV pitchers Lexi Mikowicz and Rupp threw three innings each. Mikowicz walked two, struck out one and allowed four hits. Rupp walked three, struck out three and allowed two hits.
“We had runners on every single time. We just don’t have the clutch hit,” Kagelmacher said. “That’s what we need to work on is the runners in scoring position, clutch hitting. I feel like that was one of the differences in the game and the other was the second inning, three unearned runs. That’s rough to come back from that ... take those off the board and you have a completely different ballgame.”
C-LV has limited the amount of innings Rupp, a junior returning starter, pitched this year as she dealt with a nagging injury.
"She hasn't pitched in two weeks," Kagelmacher said. "The only game she pitched more than three innings in was our first game of the season. It's rough, especially when she was a three-year returner and starter. In another year, she would have been dominant."
Rupp's injury didn't change Kagelmacher’s expectations for the team, but it gave her some perspective on the end of the season.
"Going into the season, I had really high expectations," Kagelmacher said. "And obviously I don't lower our expectations, but with our pitching, I think Lexi came in and did what we asked her to do. She did her job, she did excellent. We just didn't put the runs on the board in every game that we needed to. She kept us in every single game. Without her, we could have been winless. I feel like they played very, very well, they just couldn't put a full seven innings together."