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A sweet softball sweep for Section VI

BROCKPORT – Saturday was a triple-crown day for Section VI softball, too.

Three Section VI champions added Far West Regional champion to their resumes, and added a trip next weekend to the state championships to their itineraries, following a day-long display of winning softball.

Orchard Park dominated behind its powerful bats, Starpoint received another superior effort from Allison Block, and Alden had a high-drama, come-from-behind victory to complete the three-game sweep of Section V (Rochester area) teams at Brockport State.

Orchard Park began the day by hitting four home runs in a 16-0 rout of Victor in the Class AA game, as the Quakers clinched their first trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four since 1994.

Starpoint continued the powerful display with three home runs of its own to support another postseason gem by Block, who one-hit Pittsford-Mendon, 7-0, in the Class A game. It is the first trip to the final four for Starpoint since back-to-back trips in the tournament’s first two years: 1985 and ‘86.

Alden made school history by earning its first trip to the state semifinals, and it did so in memorable fashion. The Bulldogs scored two runs in the top of the seventh of its Class B game to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead, then pulled off a tremendous defensive play for a stunning end to their 5-4 victory over Bath-Haverling.

All three teams are headed to Moreau Recreational Park in South Glens Falls for next Saturday’s state final four. Morning semifinals are followed by state championship games in the afternoon.

Starpoint plays Section VIII (Nassau County, Long Island) winner Clarke at 9 a.m.; while Alden has the same start time on a different diamond against Section II (Albany area) champion Ichabod Crane. Orchard Park plays Section I (Dutchess, Westchester and Rockland Counties) champion Clarkstown South at 1:30 p.m. The Class A and B finals are scheduled for 1:30 p.m.; the Class AA final is scheduled for 5:30.

Orchard Park – which won its Section VI final, 12-8 – got two home runs from senior Sarah Kubik while senior pitcher Molly Hennessy and sophomore Alex Sheehy each hit one over the wall marked as being 200 feet from home plate.

“We always have great bats,” said Kubik, “and we’re constantly hitting the ball.”

Hennessy had six strikeouts to go along with eight walks and four hits, and she worked out of a few jams bolstered by knowing what her team’s offense is capable of.

“It plays a huge role,” Hennessy said. “Knowing that even if I mess up and I let a couple in, that my teammates have my back and can come back no matter what, it’s very reassuring.”

Starpoint continued the power display for Section VI early on, which put the Spartans in control thanks to another masterful postseason performance by Block.

The senior, who will play at Canisius College, took a no-hitter into the seventh, losing it on a two-out, two-strike solid single to center by Julia Ferriera. Block struck out 10 and walked one.

“I hate to say it, but we come to expect it,” coach Joe Hill said of Block’s postseason, which also included a no-hitter in the Section VI Class A final. “She hasn’t given up a run in the playoffs.”

After Maddie Bufalino led off the second inning with a solo shot, Block homered to left in the third for a 2-0 lead. Kelsi Palistrant added another solo homer in the fourth to make it 3-0.

“I think there’s more adrenaline in the playoffs, because you HAVE to win,” said Block, who said her favorite pitches, her rise ball and screwball, were working well for her. “We hoped that we would go this far, but we weren’t sure if it was actually going to happen, and it’s awesome.”

In a Class B game which didn’t feature a big inning by either team, Bath-Haverling took its first lead, 4-3, in the bottom of the sixth against Alden.

Suddenly the Bulldogs were three outs away from the end of its season. They had two outs left when junior pitcher Laura Kratzke stepped to the plate.

“I knew I had to do something, I had to pick my team up,” said Kratzke, whose “something” was a high, long home run to center that tied the game at 4-4. “I knew it was a strike, and I just went for it.”

Freshman Sara Pasternack followed with a single, which was followed by a single by sophomore Brooke Strousbaugh. Sophomore Annie Kocher worked a walk to load the bases, and junior Morgan Rutan was hit by a pitch to give Alden its 5-4 lead.

Bath-Haverling appeared to be in position for a two-out rally when its pinch runner moved up to second base as a groundout to the right side gave Alden the second out. Except, the play wasn’t over yet.

First baseman Megan Hassenbohler threw to shortstop Alyssa Gadd, who instinctively covered second on a play that the two seniors have worked on countless times in practice, but as Gadd said after the game, “that play never works.”

It did this time. Gadd caught the ball and blindly swiped her glove to her right to try for a tag, just in case the baserunner didn’t get back. She didn’t. Game over.

“I saw her starting to turn, so I just had a feeling,” said Hassenbohler. “It’s so exciting to be my senior year and to go to states and be part of history.”