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Orchard Park’s softball title proves worth the wait

SOUTH GLENS FALLS – A long delay turned out to be the start of Orchard Park’s softball championship burst Saturday evening.

The Quakers waited patiently for their turn to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, as four Moreau Recreational Park groundskeepers — not to mention a couple of NYSPHSAA supervisors — hovered over a pitcher’s circle that Liverpool had demanded be repaired in the middle of the Class AA final.

Liverpool’s fielders didn’t throw a ball around, and mostly just sat in the scorching sun. Then Orchard Park, staying cool in the dugout, produced three hits and as many runs to take a 5-2 lead that was never surrendered. Orchard Park went on to an 11-2 win for the school’s first state crown in the sport.

“Just relax, stay out of the sun. We actually tried to get their minds off the game a little bit,” OP coach Brittany Bonetto said of the approach to the delay. “That was good.”

The 20-minute stoppage didn’t affect Orchard Park, which resumed play immediately with a Molly Hennessy base hit off her pitching counterpart, Peyton Bellrose, and then a sacrifice bunt. A run-producing single followed, and three batters later Shaye Swiatek drove in two more runs with a base hit.

Section III’s Liverpool had a 2-0 lead early, scoring in the first and third innings.

Orchard Park seemed to waste an opportunity in the third. The Quakers scored two runs on five hits, as they stranded two runners and had another pair thrown out – one attempting to steal second base and the other getting busted at home plate to end a threat .

“We just had to keep with it,” Bonetto said.

Base runners were not a problem for OP, which kept pouring them on in the latter stages. Sophomore Alex Sheehy had two doubles, two RBIs and a walk.

And don’t forget the defense, as Katie Luchowski produced some fine glove work to rob Liverpool a couple of times.

It was a 9-2 lead entering the last of the sixth when Hennessy smacked a two-run home run (one that glanced off the right fielder’s glove at the fence) then produced a shutout inning on the reconstructed mound to cap her high school career.

She noted that the hole in the pitcher’s circle was a problem for her as well. It was tough on ankles to keep stepping onto that pit.

“But I’ve kind of grown accustomed to, if I say something, nothing will happen with it,” Hennessy said with a smile. “I think” Liverpool “let it get into their heads, honestly. Our team’s used to overcoming adversity. It was just one more thing to overcome.”

Orchard Park’s big day snapped what had been a very tough start for local schools, as two others failed to advance like OP - which had a seventh-inning burst to hammer Clarkstown South, 9-6, in its first game.

Starpoint fell to Section VIII’s Clarke, 3-2, in a Class A state semifinal. Aren Schwab sparked her team early with a two-RBI single with the bases loaded and pitcher Allie Block struck out the first six batters she faced. Clarke didn’t have a hit until the fourth, but its pitcher – Sarah Cornell – hit a two-run homer to tie it, then Lauren Reilly drove in the game-winning run.

“They had one more clutch hit than we did,” Starpoint coach Joe Hill said. “That’s what it came down to. But it was a really good season overall; nothing to be ashamed of. You get to this point, you play all great teams. Once their pitcher got in a groove, we had a hard time.”

Cornell tossed a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts. Starpoint’s Allie Block had 12 strikeouts and allowed five hits.

Neither pitcher could top what Alden faced in the Class B semifinals, getting no-hit by Ichabod Crane’s Calista Phippen. The Section II team took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning and held it the rest of the way behind the freshman’s 16 strikeouts.

Only a walk in the seventh spoiled a perfect game, but Alden never advanced a runner past first base.