By Rob Centorani
The Daily Star
It seems odd that Afton's softball team has never hit against Hamilton sophomore Becca Rogers.
Just as Rogers entered as a dominant pitcher for the Emerald Knights, the Crimson Knights took a rare two-year break from the Class D state playoffs.
They'll get acquainted at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, when Section Four champion Afton (21-1) faces Section Three winner Hamilton (21-2) in a Class D state semifinal at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury.
“I think it's going to be a real good game and that's how it should be in the state tournament,” Afton coach Cindy Bostelman said following her team's 13-0 cruise past Livingston Manor on Tuesday in a state quarterfinal at Minisink Valley.
The Afton-Hamilton winner will face Section Two's Fort Ann or Section Six's Pine Valley in the title game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the ASC. Fort Ann (23-0) and Pine Valley (9-8) also will play at 1:30 p.m. in a semifinal.
Hamilton breezed past its quarterfinal opponent, scoring 14 times over the final three innings in a 14-0 victory over Heulveton on Tuesday. Rogers struck out 12 in a five-hitter.
Earlier in the season, Rogers dealt with shoulder problems. Both of Hamilton's losses this season came against Center State Conference rival Cooperstown and Rogers didn't pitcher in either game. Cooperstown won the first meeting, 14-1, and the second, 5-2.
Cooperstown (21-1) went on to advance to the Section Three Class C final, falling, 6-4, to Sandy Creek on Saturday.
“Last year, she was clearly the best pitcher we faced,” Cooperstown coach Dave Bliss said of Rogers, who's pitched in nine games this season because of the injury. “She was as good as the Sandy Creek pitcher (Chelsea Claflin) and she was faster than the Sandy Creek pitcher.
“She has very good speed and a solid change-up,” he continued.
Rogers will face an Afton lineup that has outscored five postseason opponents, 64-1.
“We're excited,” Afton freshman third baseman Connor Decker said after getting three of her team's 12 hits against Livingston Manor.
Cassidy Phillips also had three hits, and shortstop Ashley Rogalski and catcher Bailey Sherman had two hits apiece for a Crimson Knights squad trying to win the school's eighth state championship in softball and first since 2009.
Phillips, a sophomore who like Rogers has been a varsity pitcher since the seventh-grade, has been nearly unhittable this postseason. She allowed no hits and struck out seven over three innings in a combined no-hitter with Payton Cutting and Decker as Afton beat Downsville, 22-0, in the first round.
In Afton's 9-0 sectional quarterfinal win over Gilbertsville-Mount Upton, Phillips had seven strikeouts and allowed one hit over five innings.
She followed with 12 strikeouts over five innings of one-hit ball as the Crimson Knights downed Edmeston, 18-0, in the semifinals.
Last Saturday, Phillips struck out five and limited Deposit to two hits as Afton ended the Lumberjacks' two-year reign as sectional champs with a 2-1 victory.
Phillips, a hard-throwing right-hander, then struck out three and allowed one hit as Afton overwhelmed Livingston Manor on Tuesday.
Though Rogers missed some time in the circle this season, she's played in every Hamilton game. Along the way, she's hit seven home runs, driven in 24 runs and scored 43 times.
Hayden Nolan, Kelby Watkins and Jessica Welsh have three homers apiece for Hamilton. One of Nolan's homers came against Cooperstown standout Nicole Cring.
Fort Ann (23-0) advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 win over Crown Point on Tuesday. Sophomore Molly Bailey threw a three-hitter. It marks the second straight year Fort Ann has reached the state semifinals.
Pine Valley (9-8) earned a 2-1 victory over Andover in its state quarterfinal. Freshman Jessica Wilcox struck out 11 in a four-hitter to get the victory and hit a go-ahead RBI double in the sixth inning.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.