By Perry L. Novak
The Daily Star
---- — QUEENBURY — Time heals all wounds.
Nine years after Hamilton ended Afton’s softball season in the state-quarterfinal round, the Crimson Knights exacted revenge with a 1-0 Class D state-semifinal victory Saturday at Morse Fields.
“None of these kids played then, but I remember (the loss),” said Afton coach Cindy Bostelman, whose program fell, 1-0, to Hamilton in a 2004 state quarterfinal. That setback marked the only time Afton failed to advance to the state semifinals during a 16-year run as Section Four Class D champions. “I respect their program.”
Saturday’s meeting was a classic pitchers’ duel. Afton sophomore Cassidy Phillips struck out 13 and walked two in a one-hitter to offset a two-hitter by Hamilton’s Becca Rogers, who walked four and hit one batter.
Phillips kept Hamilton (21-3) off-balance throughout by mixing in off-speed pitches with superb movement.
“She’d get a strike and you’d start to think,” Hamilton all-state catcher Kelby Watkins said of her team’s at-bats. “You can’t do that.”
Phillips was perfect for 3 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts before her counterpart doubled to the left-field gap. Watkins then walked to give Hamilton runners at first and second, but Phillips got Cyndee Wendt on a comebacker to end the threat.
The Emerald Knights’ only other baserunner was sophomore third baseman Jess Welsh, who walked with one out in the sixth inning. Welsh stole second and moved to third on a groundout by slap-hitter Lauren Weeks but was stranded when Phillips struck out Rogers on three pitches.
Phillips then struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to secure the victory for Afton, which followed the semifinal victory with a 5-2 loss to Fort Ann in the state championship game later Saturday.
Afton scored without the benefit of a hit in the third inning.
Rogers struck out Tanya Hatton, then walked Afton leadoff batter Ashley Rogalski, hit Sierra Palmatier with a pitch, and walked Payton Cutting to load the bases. Connor Decker then sent a grounder to shortstop Hayden Nolan, who hesitated after fielding the ball and had no play at any base.
Rogalski scored on the play, giving Phillips all the run support she needed.
“I’m sick of trying,” said Hamilton coach Bill Dowsland, whose program made it to the final-four round but failed to win a state title for the third straight season. “Trying isn’t enough. We didn’t hit. (Phillips) was smart. Not overpowering, but up-and-down and in-and-out. We just weren’t successful.”
Fort Ann advanced to the state final with a 5-2 semifinal defeat of Pine Valley, then capped a 25-0 season by beating Afton, 5-2.
Afton 1, Hamilton 0
CLASS D STATE SEMIFINAL
Saturday at Morse Fields
Hamilton 000 000 0 - 0 1 0
Afton 001 000 x - 1 2 0
Becca Rogers (L) and Kelby Watkins. Cassidy Phillips (W) and Bailey Sherman. 2B: Becca Rogers (H), Payton Cutting (A) 2.