The Elmira Notre Dame softball team talked all season about getting senior ace Olivia May to Cornell University to play on her future college field.
May and her teammates combined to make that appearance a happy one Wednesday afternoon as Notre Dame rolled to a 10-0 victory over Whitney Point in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference Large School final at Niemand-Robison Field.
“Normally sectionals are always our main focus or states are our main focus,” Crusaders coach Steve Weber said. “This was the first time we looked at league championships as our main focus, really because of her. We wanted to make sure we gave her an opportunity to try and get here.”
May did her part by striking out 13 in a four-hitter and everyone in the Notre Dame lineup contributed as the Crusaders (19-1) won their fifth straight conference title, beating the Eagles (14-5) in the championship game for the fourth year in a row.
“It’s so special,” said May, whose uniform number matched Wednesday’s run total. “Every other year it’s been expected from day one that we were going to come out and win the IAC championship at the end of the year. But this year it was never really something that we thought would actually happen. But now it’s happening and it’s just so exciting.”
The reason for the lowered expectations was the Crusaders’ young roster, which includes two freshmen, two eighth-graders and two seventh-graders. May is the lone senior.
Notre Dame didn’t look sharp in a season-opening loss to IAC Small School champion Thomas A. Edison, but the Crusaders bounced back to win their last 19 games.
The young players flexed their muscles again Wednesday. Sophomore Allie Raupers had three RBIs, including a two-run single in a three-run first inning. Freshman Morgan Cox contributed two hits, with her three-run double in the fourth inning extending the lead to 8-0.
“We practice a lot on hitting,” Raupers said. “That was our main focus for the longest time and I guess everyone’s gotten the hang of it.
“It’s a really great feeling (to win the IAC title). I’m very happy right now. We’ve worked very hard for it.”
May added two hits and two runs in four at-bats, eighth-grader MacKenzie Maloney scored three runs and freshman Alivia Clark had an RBI triple and scored twice.
Brooke Harvey, a sophomore, also scored two runs.
Whitney Point committed six errors, including one in the first inning that helped set up the Crusaders’ early lead.
“We’re a pretty young squad and I think some of the girls, first time being here, were a tad nervous,” said Eagles co-coach Joel Ferrara.
“We had mainly sophomores on that field. It was one of those things that cost us early and with a girl like Olivia three may be all she needs.”
Notre Dame’s young group, on the other hand, made its only error in the final inning.
“I was happy with how well we looked early in the game, especially defensively,” Weber said.
“We came in with a real young team and I thought they played with a lot of poise early in the game and made some good plays in the field. Their team struggled a little bit in the field and I think that was probably the difference early on.”
May struck out the side in the first inning on her way to improving to 15-1 in a season in which she has allowed only six earned runs and struck out 188 batters in under 100 innings.
“I controlled the ball pretty well,” May said. “I hit my spots and struck people out when I needed to and my defense was obviously behind me to make great plays when they needed to be made.”