SCHENEVUS – The Dragons huddled in front of their dugout, their lead extinguished and a tie game upon them with the bottom of the seventh to bat.
Instead of the blue and gold Schenevus pack chanting the usual “hits and runs” or variation of it, there was a simple directive.
“We just said, 'win it,'” Schenevus head coach Ron Spranger said.
And the Dragons did, scoring a two-out run on a passed ball for a 4-3 walk-off victory over No. 11 Richfield Springs in the Section IV Class D softball quarterfinal in Schenevus on Friday.
No. 6 Schenevus (12-3) will travel to play No. 3 Marathon (10-6) on Tuesday in the sectional quarterfinals.
Lead-off batter Hannah Osborne started the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle for her first hit of the afternoon in four tries.
“She was struggling a little bit with the bat and she came up big,” Spranger said.
As she came in to steal second, the throw from the catcher was high and Osborne moved over to third.
“I was excited and nervous,” the shortstop said. “(I was) trying to keep my cool and just get home. Score.”
A pop directly up for the catcher kept Osborne 60 feet away and put Schenevus down to two outs.
Starting pitcher Alexis Hults, who pitched 6 2/3 innings and loaded the bases in the top of the frame, stepped into the box.
“I was thinking we have to get the bats on the ball,” said Hults, who had a triple in the third and was robbed on a sinking line drive by Indians shortstop Jackie Hosford. “Just have to get Hannah in and win the game.
“And then when the ball went by and she scored. It was a great feeling.”
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Richfield Springs (7-6) starter Kirsten Hess missed the zone low and the ball went to the back stop. Osborne crossed home plate to win the game and give her junior pitcher a celebratory embrace.
“I didn't really hear my coach,” Osborne said. “I kind of just saw the ball go by, and I was there.”
Osborne scored the opening run of the game, reaching on an error during a toss from the second baseman. Erika Spranger brought her in with a single to right field and Schenevus held the 1-0 lead until the third.
Richfield Springs' Jessica Klem hit a single to right field that scored lead-off batter Hosford's single to right.
Schenevus added two more in the fourth on errors for the 3-1 lead.
“That probably made the big difference in the game for us,” Richfield Springs coach Steve Klem said.
Senior first baseman Alyssa Piercy reached on an error at second to lead the inning. Two batters later, freshman left fielder Cassandra Snyder reached on an error at third base.
Hosford, who shined defensively for the Indians, backed up the play and attempted the put-out, but the throw went high. Piercy went second to home while Snyder moved first to third as the Indians threw home without the catcher looking.
Camielah Widman grounded out to shortstop to bring in the run.
Slick defense from both teams filled up the fifth and sixth innings before Richfield Springs tied it.
Freshman Brooke Connolly started the rally with a two-out single that Osborne nearly caught, then came close to throwing her out on.
Back-to-back walks to Klem and Evonna Mower filled the bases and chased Hults from the circle.
“We got the first two (outs) and then the wheels came off a little bit,” Ron Spranger said. “That happens.”
Erika Spranger, who pitched the Tri-Valley League victory over Richfield Springs on Wednesday, came in from third base in relief.
Kennedi Butler took her first pitch and blooped a single behind second base, just out of the reach of the middle infielders, to tie the game at 3-3.
“We had the momentum,” Steve Klem said. “Again, I told the girls, 'Play like we've been playing. Keep in it. We're not out of it until it's done. I said, we've been here before, we know what we need to do. Just keep trucking, keep going after it.”
Kirsten Hess threw her fifth strikeout of the night – the fourth looking – to start the bottom of the seventh before Schenevus nixed extra innings. Hess allowed five hits with one run.
Hults pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing five hits with two strikeouts. She walked one batter in each inning except the fifth, where she had two put-outs, and the seventh when she walked two.
“Alexis pitched a whale of a game,” Ron Spranger said. “Too bad we couldn't nail it down for her but hey, that's softball.”
IN THE FIELD: Defense shined for both teams, but especially for Schenevus. The Dragons threw out back-to-back runners at the plate in the fourth to preserve the 1-0 lead. Osborne and Spranger made the throws to Widman.
First baseman Piercy closed the inning with a diving catch in foul territory.
“She made three phenomenal plays,” Ron Spranger said.
In the second the sophomore turned a double play, catching a pop-up and turning to tag the runner slightly before she returned to first.
In the fifth she closed the inning by coming down the line to catch an off throw from Osborne, then quickly turning backward to tag the runner as she stretched.
REMATCH: The two teams met two days prior in Oneonta for the Tri-Valley League championships, which Schenevus won for the first time since 2012. The score was 9-4.
“I think we came into this game with a little more intensity and not so nerved up,” Steve Klem said. “I think we were nervous the other day compared to today. I think our girls were more calm and relaxed. They had nothing to lose. Like I told them before we got here, it's win or go home. Let's get something. See what we can do.”
NEXT: Richfield Springs' season comes to a close. Second baseman Jessica Klem is the lone senior.
“My kids, I'm very proud of them. Couldn't be more proud,” Steve Klem said. “We made expectations I didn't think we'd beat to be where we are today.”
Schenevus will travel to Marathon for a 4:30 p.m. first-pitch Tuesday. Osborne and Hults said they'll use the weekend to rest and “just get our mindsets ready.”
The week of three wins served as a building block for the Dragons going forward.
“It's a cliché, but you go one game at a time and come ready to play,” Ron Spranger said.
SECTION IV CLASS D
Schenevus 4, Richfield Springs 3
Richfield Springs.....001 000 2 -- 3 6 4
Schenevus ..............100 200 1 -- 4 5 1
Kirsten Hess (L) and Evonna Mower. Alexis Hults, Erika Spranger (7, W) and Camielah Widman.
3B: Alexis Hults (S).