By Perry L. Novak Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — QUEENSBURY — Afton got the drop on Fort Ann, but the Crimson Knights’ softball season ended with a 5-2 loss in the Class D state championship game Saturday at the Adirondack Sports Complex.
Connor Decker’s RBI groundout in the first inning gave Afton the early lead, but winning pitcher Molly Bailey didn’t allow another run until the top of the seventh as Fort Ann completed a 25-0 season with its first state title since 2006.
The Cardinals tied the score in the second inning and took the lead for keeps with a three-run fourth against losing pitcher Cassidy Phillips, who was relieved by Payton Cutting in the fifth.
“They put the ball in play and we hit it right at them,” 26th-year Afton coach Cindy Bostelman said.
The Crimson Knights (22-2) struck first, though.
Ashley Rogalski led off the championship game with a bunt-single and advanced to third on a one-out single by Cutting. Rogalski then scored on Decker’s groundout.
Fort Ann tied it in the second as Kaleigh Foran stretched a leadoff shot to right field into a triple and scored on a groundout by Jordan Aubin.
The teams remained deadlocked until the fourth, which started with a leadoff single to right field by Kayla Bancroft. Bri Amodio followed with a one-out single before Aubin reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Bancroft at third. Phillips then walked Mikayla Graves, setting up Kimmi Ostrander for a two-run single to center field that also sent Graves to third. A passed ball allowed Graves to score, giving Fort Ann a 4-1 lead.
Bailey allowed one baserunner in a scoreless fifth before Bostelman switched pitchers. Kara White greeted Cutting with a double off the shortstop’s glove and Bancroft followed with a one-out tomahawk single to left field that extended the Cardinals’ lead to 5-1.
Shakari Coss started an Afton rally in the seventh as she was hit by a pitch. Sam Rogalski followed with a single to shallow right field, but Coss was thrown out at third on the play.
Bailey Sherman and Ashley Rogalski kept Afton’s chances alive with back-to-back singles, the latter scoring Sam Rogalski for the final margin.
Fort Ann’s defense came through again when Sierra Palmatier singled down the third-base line as Sherman was thrown out at the plate for the second out.
That brought Cutting to the plate with two on and two out. Cutting lifted a flyball to right field that was caught, though, as Afton was denied its first state title since winning it all in 2009.
“We were a solid ballclub last year with a rookie pitcher,” said Fort Ann coach Tim Gleason, whose team exited the 2012 state semifinals with a loss to Section Four champion Deposit. “We graduated just one starter. It’s a great group of kids.”
Bailey scattered eight hits, struck out four, walked one and hit a batter for the Section Two champion Cardinals, who won the 2006 state crown with an 8-4 defeat of Afton.
Phillips, who threw a one-hitter 1-0 semifinal defeat of Section Three’s Hamilton earlier Saturday, struck out four, walked one and gave up five of the Cardinals’ seven hits in four innings.
Cutting struck out four and allowed two hits and one run in her two innings of relief.
“You can’t hang your head,” Bostelman said after her team missed out on a chance to win the school’s eighth state title, a mark that would have made Afton the state’s winningest program (it shares the distinction with Bay Shore). “How many other teams are wearing silver around their necks? We would have liked it to be gold, but they’re hungry and have a desire to come back.”
Fort Ann 5, Afton 2
CLASS D STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday at Adirondack SC
Afton 100 000 1 - 2 8 0
Fort Ann 010 310 x - 5 7 2
Cassidy Phillips (L), Payton Cutting (5) and Bailey Sherman. Molly Bailey (W) and Megan Goodspeed. 2B: Kara White (F). 3B: Kaleigh Foran (F).