MINISINK VALLEY — Before 20 minutes expired, Tuesday’s Class D state softball quarterfinal was so decidedly tilted in Afton’s favor that the final six innings seemed a mere formality.
The Crimson Knights (21-1) sent 10 batters to the plate during a merry-go-round first inning that produced four runs. Their defense turned in three excellent plays in the bottom of the inning, sending Section Nine champion Livingston Manor back to the field after four pitches.
By game’s end, the scoreboard showed a 13-0 victory for Afton, which advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2010.
“Going back after two years, it’s one of the best feelings,” said junior Payton Cutting, who hit an RBI triple and threw a runner out at first from her right field position during the first inning, and then finished off a combined one-hitter with Cassidy Phillips by throwing three hitless innings.
Next for the Crimson Knights will be a state semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Section Three champion Hamilton at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury. The Emerald Knights (21-2) won, 14-0, Tuesday against Section 10’s Heuvelton in a state quarterfinal, scoring all of their runs over the final three innings.
It’ll mark Hamilton’s second straight appearance in the state semifinals. While winning 16 straight Section Four Class D titles — a streak that ended in 2011 — Afton advanced to the state semifinals 15 times and won five state titles.
“I’ve always wanted to go,” said Afton freshman third baseman Connor Decker, who went 3-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs.
On Saturday, the Crimson Knights will get a first-hand look at sophomore pitching standout Becca Rogers.
“She’s good and she’s been good (for a long time),” Afton coach Cindy Bostelman said of Rogers.
Good doesn’t begin to describe Afton’s start to Tuesday’s game.