HOLLAND PATENT – In arguably the most heated high school softball rivalry in the area, Adirondack and Holland Patent went at it for seven scintillating innings.
It came down to which team would make fewer mistakes, and for the fifth straight meeting it was the Adirondack Wildcats, who made the bigger plays in crunch time to come away with a huge 6-5 victory at Holland Patent’s Legion Field.
With the victory, the Wildcats (12-0, 15-0) need just one victory in their final two games to clinch the outright Center State Division 1 title for the third straight time and at least a share of the title for the seventh consecutive season. Adirondack and Holland Patent shared the title in 2015.
“We look forward to this game,” Adirondack head coach Americo Ventiquattro said. “It’s a rivalry game and probably one of the best in the area. We try to make sure we take care of the other teams so this game has more meaning and is a big game.”
Anna Hennessey had three hits, while her sister, Emma, had two hits and scored twice for the Wildcats. Arielle Kranbuhl earned the victory in the circle, giving up six hits, four earned runs and striking out five.
Leadoff Victoria Spoon had four hits and scored three runs, using her speed to wreak havoc on the base paths for the Golden Knights. Makenna Reinold pitched well, allowing just two earned runs, while also having two hits and two RBIs at the plate for Holland Patent (8-2, 10-3).
Reinold also did a nice job of pitching out of jams as she buckled down to help leave 12 Adirondack runners on base, including two in the top of the first.
The Golden Knights grabbed the lead in the bottom of the inning, plating two runs on two hits. As she did all game, Spoon sparked the offense with a leadoff single and promptly stole second. Madison Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt and a throwing error by Courtney Irvin – who ended up making the biggest defensive play of the game in the seventh – allowed Spoon to score and Brown to advance all the way to third with nobody out.
Reinold made it 2-0 with a bloop single to right before Kranbuhl buckled down and got out of the inning.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 9 in the latest Class B state poll, quickly responded and grabbed the lead with a three-run frame in the second. All three runs were unearned as Lauren Hollenbeck started things by reaching on error. After Emma Hennessey singled up the middle, Skyler Witzigman pounced on the opportunity by driving a two-run double into the left-center gap to knot the game.
Anna Hennessey ripped an RBI single through the left side to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
“All year my approach has been to be confident,” Hennessey said. “No matter who is pitching I know I can produce. It’s not about home runs it’s about RBIs and getting runners in to help us win.”
Not allowing the Wildcats to maintain the momentum for long, the Golden Knights answered with another two-spot in the bottom of the third inning to regain the lead.
Spoon got things going with a bloop single over shortstop. The speedster stole second to move into scoring position with nobody out. Spoon then tied the game by stealing third and scoring after catcher Anna Hennessey’s throw bounced into left field.
“My plan was to be aggressive on the bases because you know you’re not going to get a lot of hits against Arielle,” Williams said. “It got us a couple of runs.”
Reinold and Skylar Kaelin followed with back-to-back singles and Reigan Lines gave Holland Patent its final lead with an RBI single to center.
Adirondack pulled back even in the top of the fifth as Emily Austin singled with one out and came around to score all the way from first as Reinold’s throw on Liz Lawrence’s sacrifice bunt missed its mark and bounded down the right-field line.
“We had to make better plays in the field,” Spoon said. “The errors killed us. … We are still a good team and we need to stay with it and don’t let this get us down. We need to get to sectionals, play well and get some wins.”
The Wildcats added runs in the sixth and seventh to take a 6-4 lead. The run in the sixth was a bit controversial. With runners on the corners and one out, Austin hit a fly ball to right. Emery Crossley moved to her right to corral the second out of the inning and caught Korin Ossont halfway between first and second. Crossley quickly gunned to first and the throw beat Ossont to the bag, but on a close call, the umpire ruled the throw pulled Brown off the bag, allowing Kranbuhl to cross the plate with the go-ahead run.
Holland Patent’s defensive miscues cost them another run in the seventh. Emma Hennessey reached on an error to start the inning. Hennessey then came around to score as Reinold, who was attempting to intentionally walk Kranbuhl for the third time of the game, threw low for a run-scoring wild pitch.
“That’s what I’ve been harping on all year,” Williams said of limiting defensive mistakes. “We did not make enough good plays to win. Against good teams you can’t make those mistakes. Our team has potential. We hit the ball well. Our pitching isn’t overpowering but it doesn’t hurt us. We just need to make the defensive plays to beat teams like Adirondack.”
The Golden Knights wouldn’t go quietly in the bottom of the seventh, pushing Kranbuhl and the Wildcats to the last out. Once again, Spoon came through to start the inning, plopping another blooper down the right-field line for a leadoff double.
“It’s trying to stay in your zone,” Spoon said of her approach at the plate Thursday. “Stay in there and be ready to hit the ball.”
Brown then ripped a single to left field and stole second to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
Reinold inched Holland Patent closer by bouncing an RBI-groundout to short that made it 6-5 and put the tying run 60 feet away before Irvin made the defensive play of the game.
With just one out, Kaelin bounced a slow roller to third. With Brown trying to time the throw before breaking for home, Irvin faked the throw, caught Brown breaking for home and tagged her for the second out of the inning.
“I kind of knew before it was hit to me,” Irvin said of her huge defensive play. “I had it in my head already and we’ve practiced it the last three years and I got the opportunity at the biggest time. It was a really big win for us. Now we have to get some more wins.”
Kranbuhl then finished things off, fielding a short grounder and throwing to second basemen Emma Hennessey, who was covering first, to close out a huge league win.
“To be on the field with eight seniors and to come out with the ‘W’ on their field is a great feeling,” Anna Hennessey said.
Ventiquattro gave the credit to Irvin for making an instinctive play in a crucial situation.
“We try to simulate that type of situation in practice,” Ventiquattro said. “If you feel the runner getting off base you wheel. But it was a reaction. She made that play on her own and it was a big play for us.”
The Wildcats are unbeaten and hoping to lock down another league title before turning their sights on making a run in the ultra-competitive Class B sectional tournament. Adirondack plays at Sherburne-Earlville Monday before hosting Holland Patent Wednesday.
“Our first goal is to take care of the league,” Ventiquattro said. “Then it’s getting to the (sectional) final. If you make it to the final, you have a chance. It’s really difficult to even make it to the semifinals in Class B. It’s no joke to make it to the final.”
Adirondack 6, Holland Patent 5
Adirondack 030 011 1—6 11 2
Holland Patent 202 000 1—5 9 4
2B: Adirondack, Skyler Witzigman; Holland Patent, Spoon. 3B: Adirondack, Anna Hennessey.
Records: Adirondack (12-0, 15-0); Holland Patent (8-2, 10-3).