ITHACA – With the pitcher from its most recent championship team in attendance, the youthful Elmira Notre Dame softball team showed that it still knows how to bring home the hardware.
Junior co-captain Alivia Clark tossed a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts and sophomore third baseman MacKenzie Maloney had three hits as the Crusaders defeated Union Springs, 6-0, in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference Large School title game on Thursday at Cornell’s Niemand-Robison Field.
Freshman shortstop Izzy Milazzo drove in two runs for the winners (16-2), ranked seventh in the state in Class C, who scored single runs in the third and fourth before blowing it open with three runs on two hits and two costly errors in the fifth by the Wolves (14-4), ranked 23rd in the state.
Coach Steve Weber credited the pitching of Clark, whose only blemish was a one-out single in the fourth by her opposite number, Wolves pitcher Grace Van Horn. Left fielder Morgan Cornell was the only other US player to reach base, doing so on a dropped third strike with two outs in the third.
“Clarky pitched really well, she was hitting her spots,” Weber said. “That made a huge difference. We didn’t hit the ball extremely hard or anything, but we making them have to make plays and we were able to manufacture runs once the game wore on a little bit.”
Weber was greeted after the game by Olivia May, a sophomore at Cornell and former five-time all-state pitcher for Notre Dame, who led the Crusaders to the 2011 state championship. May played with a few of the current crop of Crusaders, but many of them were in middle school when she was starring in the circle.
The END roster features one senior — catcher and co-captain Brooke Harvey — and four juniors, to go along with three freshmen and four sophomores.
The Crusaders got at least one hit in every inning but the sixth, but didn’t score till Milazzo’s single in the third plated Harvey, who walked and stole second. Notre Dame played small ball in the fourth, as freshman left fielder Courtney Crater reached on a leadoff bunt single, advanced to second on a ground-out and to third on a bunt single by sophomore second baseman Maura Glovins. She then scored on a wild pitch.
The floodgates opened in the fifth as Maloney led off with a single, stole second and scored on an error by US left fielder Cornell on a base hit by Harvey. Milazzo followed with a single to left, scoring Harvey from third; Milazzo reached third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout.
The Crusaders’ final run crossed the plate in unusual fashion. With one out and leadoff hitter MacKenzie Mahajan on third, Wolves pitcher Van Horn was ruled by the home plate umpire to have rubbed the ball in the dirt of the pitcher’s circle. The result is a balk, advancing all runners one base.
Weber said his team was prepared for the synthetic surface at Cornell, as the team practiced on its school’s football field Wednesday evening.
“I’m sure that gives us a little bit of an advantage, and we enjoy playing on it,” he said. “This is a great facility, and it’s great that Cornell lets us come up and play on it.”
After finishing third in the Large South division last year, Weber said his team will savor this championship even as it looks to bigger goals at the sectional and state level.
“Not winning this last year really made them hungry and really focused for it,” he said. “They were excited to come and play today.”
Tioga 12, Moravia 0: In Thursday’s opener at Cornell, junior left-hander Sam Wood took a perfect game into the fifth inning and finished with a two-hit shutout as the Tigers (11-3) won their second straight IAC Small School championship.
Junior shortstop Katelynn Stubbs and Wood both went 3-for-4 for the Tigers, who are led by first-year coach Heather Klossner. She took over this season for Jim Wood, father of winning pitcher Sam, who guided the Tigers to three IAC titles in 12 seasons.
Freshman pitcher Maddie Funk and junior catcher Miranda Withers had the hits for the Blue Devils (10-6), while Funk yielded 12 runs on 10 hits and was hurt by nine errors from the defense.
After a scoreless first, the Tigers broke the game open with six runs in the second inning on three hits and three errors. Right fielder Mariah Culver singled and scored the game’s first run on two wild pitches and a passed ball. She tripled and scored on a wild pitch leading off the third, when Tioga added three runs on four hits and another error.
Sam Wood cruised in the circle early, facing the minimum 14 batters through 42/3 innings before Funk lofted a fly ball into the gap in left-center for Moravia’s first hit. Withers added an infield single to lead off the seventh, but with one out, junior center fielder Rachel Kehoe lined out to second, and Taylor Ayres fired to first to double off Withers, ending the game.
Despite having just two seniors, the Tigers had the experience of playing, and winning, on the synthetic surface at Cornell, which Klossner said was a benefit.
“We knew what to expect, so that was helpful,” said Klossner, who played for Jim Wood at Tioga, as did her assistant coach, Stephanie Hills. “It is a much different game, but I think it plays to our strengths. We like it here, we’d play on turf year round if we could.”
Large School final: Elmira Notre Dame 6, Union Springs 0
Small School final: Tioga 12, Moravia 0