By Rob Centorani
CICERO _ It's not often a tiny sliver of black can be considered a work of art.
But Afton senior Morgan Muller proved Wednesday that a masterpiece can be made out of the black portion that outlines home plate by continually pounding the outside part of strike zone.
Her uncanny ability to hit that corner resulted in a two-hitter that included 12 strikeouts and no walks as she led the Crimson Knights to a 9-0 Class D state quarterfinal victory over Stockbridge Valley at Gillette Park.
"She didn't change her gameplan the entire game," said Stockbridge Valley coach Chris Peto, whose Section Three championship team ended its season at 22-3. "She just kept pegging that outside corner and we didn't adjust to it."
Muller also got it done at the plate, going 3-for-5, and teammate Jenny Boudreau went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs. The two led an Afton squad that finished with 13 hits.
With the victory, Section Four champion Afton (21-4) advances to the state semifinals for the 13th time in 14 seasons. The Crimson Knights will play Section Two's Argyle at 9 a.m. Saturday at the BAGSAI Complex at Broome Community College, where Afton won its 14th consecutive Section Four title this past Saturday. The Scots defeated Crown Point, 12-6, Wednesday in their state quarterfinal.
"Once I saw (the umpire) was going to give me a little bit, I was just gunning for (the outside corner)," said Muller, who has allowed five hits and no earned runs in four postseason victories. "I felt confident and threw it, and knowing the defense is behind me is the absolute best part of it."
The odd part on this warm and breezy day was that Muller's counterpart, sophomore Cheyenne Bumpus, probably threw the ball a little harder than Muller (20-4).
Bumpus (20-3) came into the quarterfinal with 267 strikeouts and added nine to that total Wednesday, but she lacked Muller's precision.
"Most definitely," Peto said, when asked if Afton hit Bumpus harder than any of the Indians' previous opponents. "They were on her."
It started in the first inning, when Afton's Stephanie Sherman reached on an infield hit to third _ a ball in the hole that glanced off Nicole Rossi's glove.
After Muller struck out and Sherman stole second, Ashley Winans hit what appeared to be a routine fly to left field. Breanna Marshall seemed to be properly positioned for a catch, but with the wind blowing out to left, the ball hit the top of her glove and rolled to the fence. The two-base error gave Afton a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the fifth, when four consecutive two-out singles produced two more Afton runs.
Muller blooped a single into shallow center and Winans beat out an infield hit to deep short
See MULLER on Page 15
that sent pinch-runner Kailee Granger to second.
Jessie Winans, Ashley's cousin, followed with an RBI single to center before Amber Lynn singled through the left side of the infield. Lynn's hit scored Ashley Winans from second to make it 3-0.
"We've played Susquehanna Valley and Sandy Creek, so I think we thought, We can hit this girl,'" Jessie Winans said of an Afton schedule that also included a 6-5 victory over Horseheads and 1-0 loss to Union-Endicott, both Class AA schools.
This one turned into a laugher when Afton plated six runs in the top of the seventh, an inning aided by two walks and three SV errors.
Boudreau's two-run triple to right-center highlighted an inning that also included singles by Muller and Stephanie Parsons.
"Going against Bumpus in particular, that's a good thing (to score that many runs)," Afton coach Cindy Bostelman said. "When we get against good pitching, we look forward to it. That was our thought today _ we'll hit because we have good pitching. When they throw harder, we get better."
Pitching against a team that advanced to the quarterfinals with a 13-7 thumping of Oriskany, Muller allowed three baserunners.
Andrea Rogers reached on an infield hit to third with two out in the first inning. Her nubber took a strange hop just in front of third baseman Hannah Westfall and deflected of her glove.
Kayla Dalrymple reached in the fourth, when Afton right fielder Abbie Martin misplayed a fly in right-center.
Then in the seventh, Rogers drove a single to center for SV's only well-struck ball. She was erased when Marshall hit a soft liner to first baseman Ashley Winans, who doubled off Rogers at first to end it.
"I'm very excited," Muller said of returning to the final four. "This will be my fourth year going back and it never gets old."
Afton 9, Stockbridge Valley 0
CLASS D STATE QUARTERFINAL
at Gillette Park, Cicero
4-AFTON (21-4) 3-STOCKBRIDGE (22-3)
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Sherman lf 5 1 2 1 Gough c 3 0 0 0
Muller p 5 0 3 0 Bumpus p 3 0 0 0
Granger pr 0 2 0 0 Rogers ss 3 0 2 0
A.Winans 1b 4 1 1 0 Dalrymple cf 3 0 0 0
J.Winans ss 3 1 1 1 Marshall lf 3 0 0 0
Lynn c 3 0 1 1 Printup 2b 2 0 0 0
Mulieri pr 0 1 0 0 Rossi 3b 2 0 0 0
Parsons 2b 4 1 2 0 Baker 1b 2 0 0 0
Westfall 3b 4 1 0 0 Couture rf 2 0 0 0
Boudreau cf 4 1 3 2
Martin rf 4 0 0 0
Totals 36 9 13 5 Totals 23 0 2 0
Afton 100 020 6 _ 9 13 1
Stockbridge Valley 000 000 0 _ 0 2 4
E _ Marshall, Gough, Printup, Martin. DP _ Afton 1. LOB _ A 8; SV 2. 3B _ Boudreau. SB _ Boudreau, Parsons, Mulieri.
Afton IP H R ER BB SO
Muller (W,20-4) 7 2 0 0 0 12
Stockbridge Valley IP H R ER BB SO
Bumpus (L,20-3) 7 13 9 6 2 9
WP _ Bumpus 3.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.