WHITESBORO — Pitching, defense, small-ball tactics, and even the power game. That’s how many ways the Oneida Indians softball can defeat its competition.
It was all of the above during Wednesday’s 8-1 victory over Whitesboro at Westmoreland Road Softball Fields. The Indians (8-0, 11-1) haven’t lost a Tri Valley League game since the 2014 opener and the win streak sits at 63.
In a duel featuring two of the best pitchers in Section 3, senior Kyra Shlotzhauer got the defensive support she needed to earn the victory over star junior Caitlin Reilly and the Warriors (5-2, 8-3). Emily Marshall homered for Oneida, which inched closer to a 13th straight league title.
“I’m very proud of Kyra because it was difficult early on for her finding the zone,” Oneida head coach Mike Curro said. “She was struggling a little bit and getting down but she bounced back and she kept going as Whitesboro put pressure on us right from the get-go.”
The Warriors had several opportunities over the first three innings to build a lead, but mental errors and great defense by Oneida kept them off the board.
In the first, Chloe Weller led off with a double down the right field line. Hailey Hunter and Olivia Simone followed by drawing walks to load the bases, but Whitesboro’s momentum was short-lived as Weller left third on a fly out to left field and was called out on an appeal. Shlotzhauer got out of the jam by inducing Reilly to ground out back to the circle.
In the third, the Warriors put their first two batters on as Kendal Dorozynski and Weller singled, but Hunter followed by hitting a one-hopper to third basemen Sydney Lusher, who stepped on third and gunned to first for the double play.
With two out and a runner on second, Simone laced a liner to center that was hauled in by Mary Robello for the third out.
“Defensively we caught a break, without a doubt,” Curro said. “She left early and I saw it from the get-go. This whole season we’ve had people on base with nobody out and have been able to come away with zeros, so it’s a nice thing defensively when you can do that. Against C-NS we did that and today we did that.
“Then another time we were jammed up and we turned a double play. Defense wins championship and we defended very well today.”
Reilly dominated the Indians through the first three innings, striking out eight of the first nine batters she faced. She finished with 11 strikeouts and one earned run allowed.
“Caitlin pitched great, we just have to field the ball,” Whitesboro head coach Aaron Cirasuolo said. “It’s as simple as that. If you do the little things right, then big things happen. (Today) we weren’t doing the little things right. We hit the ball well and had some bad luck like hitting the ball right to third base for a double play and leaving early by a half second.”
However, as they usually do, the Indians adjusted at the plate beginning in the top of the fourth as Marshall blasted the first pitch she saw over the left field wall to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
Marshall’s first career homer surprised her as much as anyone else.
“I was kind of in shock because I haven’t hit one,” Marshall said. “It was good to get that run, but, but I think it was mostly the inning where we got four runs that we really got things started.”
The Warriors answered in the bottom half as Reilly singled and came around to score on Sofi Cartini’s RBI-groundout to knot the game.
The game remained tied until the Indians broke things open with four runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh — all unearned — that turned a tight game into a comfortable victory.
During the decisive innings, Oneida kept putting the ball in play and Whitesboro’s defense cracked. Shlotzhauer sparked the offense with key hits in both the sixth and seventh innings as the Indians were able to take advantage of a slew of Whitesboro errors.
The Indians used small-ball tactics to force Whitesboro to make clean plays. The Warriors struggled to do that over the final two innings, and it was costly.
Lauren Skibitski started things by reaching on an error and then moved to third on Lusher’s single through the right side. Lusher moved to second on an errant throw and Marshall was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Skibitski then raced home on a wild pitch to break the tie, before Olivia Friend hit a hard grounder that was mishandled, resulting in two more runs that gave Oneida a 4-1 advantage. A sacrifice fly scored the final run of the inning.
It was more of the same in the seventh as Skibitski led off by lining a double to left-center before a key error, that would’ve been the third out, plated two runs. Shlotzhauer’s RBI single rounded out the scoring.
“Offensively we made a change in the box and it started with Emily,” Curro said. “This was reminiscent of C-NS where we executed in crucial situations and were able to get bunts down when we needed to and they had to defend.
“That was one of our focuses going in, and if you can’t hit it with the stick, we’ll little them.”
Once given the late lead, Shlotzhauer breezed through the Warriors lineup, retiring the final six batters. She finished with four strikeouts while allowing seven hits in earning the complete-game victory.
Oneida, ranked 4th in the latest Class B state poll, is battle-tested and are comfortable in tough situations. Part of it is playing a tough out-of-conference schedule.
“Yes, that is part of it,” Marshall said of facing tough competition throughout the state. “But it’s also that we always practice with the same intensity as games, and that really helps us.”
Another aspect of their success is having senior leadership from role players like Reilly White.
“My role is being whatever I need to be,” White said. “I’m a leader and I make sure we’re staying focused and on task and I take others’ success as my own success and others’ success becomes my success. So, it’s about staying on track, working hard and making sure we don’t get on one another and stay supportive.”
Weller finished with two hits, while Hunter, Madison Cieslak, Reilly, Angie Cirasuolo and Dorozynski each had one for the Warriors. The Warriors are ranked No. 25 in Class A and have the talent to challenge for the sectional title. It likely will come down the the little things.
“I just think we need to keep our focus the entire game,” Reilly said. “Then we need to pick each other up and be there for each other after we make mistakes. I want to win sectionals with this team because we definitely have the potential to do it.”
Adriana Chapa had a double, Kaylin Curro added a single and Friend hit the ball hard three times and scored two runs for the Indians, who have lofty goals, but are focused on finishing strong against a tough schedule.
“We play a doubleheader against Baldwinsville on Saturday and then have Camden on Monday,” coach Curro said. “We will have our hands full with them, but I’ll take this group of kids against anybody.”
Oneida 8, Whitesboro 1
Oneida 000 104 3–8 7 0
Whitesboro 000 100 0–1 7 6
W: Kyra Shlotzhauer. L: Caitlin Reilly. HR: Oneida, Emily Marshall. 2B: Oneida: Lauren Skibitski, Adriana Chapa; Whitesboro, Chloe Weller.
Records: Oneida 8-0, 11-1; Whitesboro 5-2, 8-3.
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org