Schenevus certainly didn't make it easy for top-seeded Afton to advance to the Section Four Class D softball championship game Thursday.
The 13-time defending sectional champion Crimson Knights got a one-hitter from winning pitcher Morgan Muller and scored all of their runs in the fifth inning of a 3-0 semifinal victory over the visiting Dragons.
"Defensively, what a nice, little team they are," Afton coach Cindy Bostelman said of Tri-Valley League champion Schenevus (23-4), which committed both of its errors in the fifth inning and held the Knights to four hits overall. "I was really impressed with them. They're a really good, sound defensive team."
Hannah Westfall opened the decisive bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single against losing pitcher Kelly Tiderencel (10-4), who got Jen Boudreau to fly out to center before reliever Jessica Bentley took over.
"I was really surprised," Bostelman said of the pitching change with one out and a runner at first. "It was not that big of a deal with one runner on base. I think I liked the second girl better than the first."
Abby Martin and Stephanie Sherman certainly did as the two reached base in back-to-back at-bats. Bentley misplayed a hard comebacker by Martin that gave Afton runners at first and second. Sherman then hit a two-run double to the right-center field fence for a 2-0 lead.
Midstate Athletic Conference champion Afton (19-4) then sent Kailee Granger to the plate to pinch-hit for Muller. Granger grounded to Schenevus shortstop Holli Oberacker, whose errant throw to first allowed Sherman to score the final run.
Muller (18-4) faced one over the minimum as two of the Dragons' runners were thrown out stealing by Afton catcher Amber Lynn. Bentley reached base with one out in the third when second baseman Stephanie Parsons misplayed a big hop for Afton's only error. Bentley successfully stole second but was later thrown out trying to steal third.
Maura Harrington broke up Muller's no-hit bid with a leadoff single up the middle in the sixth. Muller struck out the next batter before Lynn caught Harrington trying to steal second.
Muller, who threw a perfect game in a 9-0 quarterfinal win over Milford on Tuesday, finished with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Oberacker drew a leadoff walk in the second inning and stole second before Marion Murphy sacrifice-bunted her to third. Kiersten Ives followed with a bunt up the first-base line but tripped as she left the box, allowing Lynn to get a tag close to the plate for the second out and forcing Oberacker to stay at third. Muller then struck out Tiderencel to end the inning.
Tiderencel struck out one, walked one and allowed three singles _ one to Ashley Winans in the first and two to Westfall, in the second and the fifth _ in 5 1/3 innings. Bentley had no strikeouts or walks and yielded one hit, the double to Sherman.
"There ain't nothing handed to you. We found that out after tonight," Bostelman said. "Sometimes, that's the best thing _ to play a game like that before the next round. We had to work for this game and we played a really good team. I can't say enough about Schenevus."
Westfall finished 2-for-2 to lead Afton, which will meet MAC Division II rival Deposit (12-7) in the Section Four Class D championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at BAGSAI Complex in Binghamton. Afton swept the seventh-seeded Lumberjacks, 5-2 and 5-1, during the regular season.
"It's hard to beat a team three times in one season," Bostelman said. "The pressure's kind of on us to perform."
Visiting Deposit won Thursday's other semifinal, 9-5, to end third-seeded Hancock's season at 14-5.
Afton 3, Schenevus 0
SECTION FOUR CLASS D
4-Schenevus000 000 0 _ 0 1 2
1-Afton000 030 x _ 3 4 1
Kelly Tiderencel (L,10-4), Jessica Bentley (6) and Marion Murphy. Morgan Muller (W,18-4) and Amber Lynn. 2B _ Stephanie Sherman (A).