LOWVILLE — The Oneida Indians felt fortunate to be playing in the Class B semifinals.
During Thursday’s quarterfinal, the Indians received a huge break as an error on a routine play kept them alive, allowing pinch-hitter Adriana Chapa to belt a two-run game-winning triple for a 6-5, 10-inning victory over rival Camden.
The top-seeded Indians took advantage of that reprieve in Saturday’s semifinal, scoring four runs in the first inning in cruising to a 12-2 victory over Holland Patent.
“I think what I said to the kids is: ‘you need to go out and finish this now’ because Camden very easily could’ve won that game,” Curro said. “I just feel the situation and opportunity that we were given, now we have to finish the job we set out to do.”
Saturday’s victory puts Oneida (21-1) in an impressive eighth straight final. The Indians, ranked second in the state, will face third-seeded Adirondack at 5:30 Monday for the Class B title. Adirondack edged No. 2 South Jefferson 4-3 in Saturday’s first semifinal.
Senior Kyra Shlotzhauer earned the victory in the circle, striking out six and allowing just one earned run before Kerrigan Crysler came in to get the final out. Lauren Skibitski, Sydney Lusher and Alyssa Gienger had two hits apiece for the opportunistic Indians, who took advantage of seven Holland Patent errors.
In the bottom of the first, Kaylin Curro, Oneida’s speedy leadoff, reached on a thowing error and moved to second. Skibitski followed with a double down the left-field line to score Curro and the Indians were up 1-0.
One batter later, the Indians doubled their advantage as Lusher ripped an RBI-single up the middle. After a fielder’s choice, Olivia Friend roped a rocket to center and Alyssa Gienger blistered a liner that handcuffed the short stop to push two more runs across the plate, giving Oneida a 4-0 lead.
“It was awesome because it takes a big weight off your shoulders,” Skibitski said of the quick four runs in the first and getting another chance at a championship. “I won it in my first year when I was in eighth grade. It would be nice to come full circle and win another one in my last year.”
Bolstered with a four-run lead, Shlotzhauer cruised through the second before Holland Patent senior leadoff Victoria Spoon lined one down the right-field line and legged out a home run to narrow the gap to 4-1 in the third.
The Golden Knights (17-3), looked to move closer in the top of the fourth as Anna Healey and Reigan Lines singled to start the inning. Madeline Acevedo bunted and reached on an error to load the bases with nobody out.
Shlotzhauer began working her way out of the jam by recording a strikeout. The senior then got some luck and nice defense as Skibitski quickly ranged to her left to snared a liner by Emery Crossley for the second out. Shlotzhauer then got her team out of the jam by closing out the inning with another strikeout.
“I just hit my spots and I trusted Coach Curro because he’s good at calling pitches,” Shlotzhauer said. “So I just trusted my stuff and trusted what I’ve been taught.”
Having an experienced, battle-tested senior in the circle is a calming influence for the entire team.
“Kyra came in and shut them down,” Curro said. “She made good pitches and had a strikeout in there. … She’s amazing in the circle. She’s our catalyst and has matured in there to take on those types of situations and come out pretty much unscathed. Hopefully she’ll continue to do that.”
While the Indians were able to diffuse the scoring chance, Holland Patent didn’t give starter Makenna Reinold the same support as three errors in the bottom of the fourth led to four more Oneida runs.
Chapa led off the inning with a single and came around to score after a sacrifice bunt and an error. Curro, who reached on an error, stole third and came around to score on another error. Marshall’s ground out plated Skibitski and Lusher got out of a rundown to make it 8-1.
“You can’t beat a team like that when you make those mistakes,” Holland Patent head coach Dennis Williams said. “We had to play close to a perfect game to beat a team like that. We just didn’t do it and had a really bad day defensively.
“(Oneida) is just a really good team and they took it to us. And when you give them extra outs, they are going to take advantage and beat you. We have played good defense the past couple of weeks, but we picked the wrong day to have a bad game.”
The sixth inning was nearly identical as the fourth as Holland Patent loaded the bases, but came away with just one run to make it 8-2. Oneida followed in the bottom half by getting hits by Curro, Marshall and Shlotzhauer to go along with three more Holland Patent errors. That combination led to four more runs that pushed the Indians’ advantage to 12-2.
Now the Indians’ focus is bringing home their first title since winning back-to-back championships in 2014-15.
“This means the world to us and we’re going to do whatever we can to win it,” Shlotzhauer said. “We’ve worked way too hard to just let it go. I know everyone on my team wants the same thing I do and they’re going to do everything they can and I’m going to do everything I can to get it done.”
Spoon had two hits to lead the way for Golden Knights. Reinold allowed just three earned runs and struck out six in her final high school game for Holland Patent, which finished off its season (17-3).
“The positive spin I can put on our season is that we finished 17-3 and the two teams that beat us are still playing,” said Williams, who lost twice to Adirondack during the regular season.
For Oneida its another chance at a banner. The Indians have won four titles since 2009, but have dropped three straight finals, losing to Jamesville-DeWitt (2016), Solvay (2017) and Christian Brothers Academy (2018).
“We’ve been in this position before and this is where we’ve stumbled,” Coach Curro said. “We’re conscious of it and we’re going to go have a great practice tomorrow to get ready. Holland Patent is a well-coached team, but they’re young, and the experience of not being in these types of games was a factor today. Adirondack has been in these games, and I don’t think it will be a factor for them.”
Lusher, just a sophomore, has been part of the last two losses in the finals. She was pleased with the team’s play Saturday and not letting things they couldn’t control hinder their performance.
“Today we played our game. We were loud and proud and didn’t let the field change our mindset,” said Lusher, who also scored twice.
The field comment by Lusher was a reference to there being no fence at Lowville’s nice turf complex. None of the coaches were happy with playing on a fence-less field in a sectional game and didn’t hesitate to voice their displeasure.
-ADIRONDACK 4, SOUTH JEFFERSON 3: Emma Hennessey legged out a three-run homer in the fifth inning to break open a 1-1 game as the Wildcats held off a late South Jefferson rally to earn a spot in the Class B final.
Hannah Miller hit a solo homer in the first inning and earned the win on the mound for the Wildcats, allowing two earned runs and eight hits.
Skyler Witzigman had three hits and Payton Gaylord finished with two hits and a run scored for Adirondack (16-3), which is making its first appearance in the final since 2014.
Section 3, Class B Semifinal
Oneida 12, Holland Patent 2
HP 001 001 0–2 6 7
ON 400 404 X-12 12 2
W: Kyra Shlotzhauer. L: Makenna Reinold. 2B: Oneida, Lauren Skibitski, Alyssa Gienger. HR: Holland Patent, Victoria Spoon.
Records: Oneida 21-1; Holland Patent 17-3.
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org