ONEONTA _ It turned so quickly.
One moment Oneonta High appeared poised to take control in the sixth inning. About 10 minutes later, Windsor had a two-run lead.
For the second straight year, the Black Knights beat Oneonta in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference East Division softball tiebreaker, this time by a 4-2 count on a sunny Friday afternoon at OHS.
It marked the third round for the Section Four Class B powers in 2013. Both sides sounded as if they’re expecting the bell to ring for Round 4 in early June.
“Oneonta is a very good team,” said Windsor shortstop Emma Benson, who hit go-ahead RBI doubles in the fifth and seventh innings. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all (to play OHS again). We probably will see them again.”
Added OHS coach Randy Brockway: “It’s two quality teams that will battle until the end. We’re hoping for that fourth game.”
Oneonta (17-2) and Windsor (18-1) – teams that would be unbeaten if they didn’t play each other this season – are seeded 1-2, respectively, for the sectional tournament. If the seeds hold, they’d meet in the Class B final at 2 p.m. June 1 at the BAGSAI Complex.
“We’re pretty motivated,” said OHS standout Brieanna Baker, a hard-throwing right-hander who struck out 14 and walked one in a five-hitter. “We know we can beat them. We just have to bring our A game.”
Though Benson’s doubles played a huge role in the outcome, perhaps the game’s biggest play was authored by Windsor catcher Allison Lockwood in the sixth inning.
Trailing, 2-1, the Yellowjackets loaded the bases with one out in the sixth.
Emmalee Sloman opened the inning by reaching on an error by first baseman Ashley Kamp, who dropped a throw from second baseman Cassidy Smith. After Cami Cleaveland struck out, Hayley Dower beat out a beautiful bunt down the third-base line. Dower’s bunt hugged the line and died about 20 feet from the plate.
Windsor coach Bill Waldron then made a pitching change, taking out eighth-grader Paige Rauch in favor of senior Morgan Starley. Rauch held the Yellowjackets to two runs _ one earned _ on four hits. She struck out nine and walked none.
“With the style that Oneonta throws at you, if you have someone who can hit spots and we play good defense, that will keep you in the game,” Waldron said of Rauch, making her third appearance in the circle this season.
Added Brockway: “That’s the first time we’ve seen her and she seems to be a good pitcher. She has a nice change-up. (Rauch) and Starley are both quality pitchers. Windsor has a good duo there.”
Starley got ahead 0-2 on Erin Mushtare before hitting Oneonta’s No. 3 batter to load the bases. Brianna Haines then drove a 1-2 pitch the opposite way for an RBI single to right that tied the score at 2.
Up stepped Shelby Cleaveland, who has four hits against Starley this season. She had two hits in Oneonta’s 1-0 loss at home early in the season and two more in the Yellowjackets’ 2-0 win at Windsor.
But on an 0-1 pitch, Cleaveland missed a bunt attempt on a high pitch. Lockwood then threw a strike to third baseman Alexa Cary to get Dower, who ventured too far off the bag. Cleaveland popped out to Starley on the next pitch to end the inning.
“I called timeout and went out,” Waldron said of strategy session in the circle before Cleaveland’s at-bat. “Allison is a quick catcher and they have very quick people, and a lot of times quick people are very aggressive on the bases. I thought it may have been the one chance to get us out of the inning and really turn the momentum. I think it did.”
Added Brockway: “If you go back to the sixth inning, we had an opportunity to get the bunt down and get the squeeze play. The way we read the defense was right, but we missed the bunt attempt and they threw down to third base. Tough play.”
In the top of the seventh, Baker struck out Cary and Courtney Vaccaro to start the inning. Lockwood then hit a bouncer to third that deflected off of Cami Cleaveland’s glove for an error. Benson followed by sending a 1-0 pitch halfway up the fence in right for a double that scored Lockwood to make it 3-2. Benson took third on the late throw to home and scored Windsor’s fourth run on a passed ball.
Both teams finished with five hits, but all three of the game’s extra-base hits went Windsor’s way and all three led to runs.
Rauch doubled to right-center with two outs in the first inning and scored on a single to left by Kamp. With two outs in the fifth, Lockwood drew the lone walk Baker issued and scored on Benson’s double to right-center to make it 2-1.
Benson struck out in her first two at-bats against Baker. She said shorter was better in her final two plate appearances.
“I wanted to shorten up my swing and make sure I got on base,” she said.
Brockway said Windsor’s doubles made the difference.
“I think the hitting was pretty much even throughout the game other than their hits got to the fence and ours stayed in the interior,” he said. “Battle for battle, it was pretty even other than the length of their hits.”
Oneonta broke through against Rauch in the fourth inning. Dower, who had two of Oneonta’s five hits, lined a single to center to start the inning. She advanced to second on a sacrifice by Mushtare. Haines then flied out to right fielder Kylie Buchek. Dower tagged up and easily made it to third, and scored when Buchek’s throw went about 10 feet right of third. It tied the score at 1.
“Randy has a great program going here and the girls work hard for him,” said Waldron, whose team will play in a STAC semifinal Monday at BAGSAI. “He’s brought it a long way. They’re a good bunch of kids and they seem to really want to play the game, and they have a lot of athletes up here, a lot to choose from. We felt really fortunate to win tonight. There’s always another day and I’m sure that’s what he’s telling them over there.”
Brockway said OHS will play a non-league at New Hartford early next week. The Yellowjackets will begin play in sectionals at home against eighth-seeded Newark Valley on May 28.
Windsor 4, Oneonta 2
STAC EAST DIVISION TIEBREAKER
Windsor 100 010 2 _ 4 5 2
Oneonta 000 101 0 _ 2 5 3
Paige Rauch, Morgan Starley (6,W) and Allison Lockwood. Brieanna Baker (L) and Erin Mushtare. 2B: Paige Rauch (W), Emma Benson (W) 2.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.