DICKINSON – Horseheads softball coach Megan Zoerb believes one of the hallmarks of her team has been its resiliency in tough situations.
That was clearly evident Friday at the BAGSAI Complex as the Blue Raiders rallied from deficits in both their games, the latter of those a 5-2 title-game victory over Binghamton that yielded the program’s third Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship in four years.
Abbey Whitney’s two-out single in the sixth inning produced the first of four runs in the frame that enabled Horseheads (17-3) to wipe out a 1-0 deficit against the Patriots.
“I was very confident,” Zoerb said of her team’s prospects of finally breaking through against Binghamton. “We’ve been in that situation where we’ve been down, we were in that situation (in a 3-2 semifinal victory over Susquehanna Valley).
“We just needed to make sure we stayed mentally tough, to rely on our skills, rely on our experience and not give up.”
Binghamton (14-6) took advantage of a Horseheads fielding error to grab a 1-0 lead in the first inning. That remained the score until the top the sixth inning, when the Blue Raiders bats finally got going against Patriots pitcher Mikayla Pourby.
Until the sixth, Pourby had allowed just three hits, the first of those coming when Emily Knowlden singled with two out in the fourth inning. However, Lyndsey Murray immediately put Horseheads in a good position to get on the board when she tripled to right to lead off the sixth.
Pourby managed to retire the next two batters, the second of those when left fielder Emily Zeboris made a nice grab of a sinking liner by Knowlden, before Whitney was able to lace a shot just over second baseman Kaily LaForce’s glove for a single that plated Murray to tie the score at 1.
“I feel like our team just needed somebody to step up, and I think me getting that hit really helped our team,” Whitney said. “It got a run going and we were able to produce after that.”
Amber Terlage and Jill Murray followed with back-to-back RBI doubles to left to make it 3-1, with another run coming afterwards via a Binghamton throwing error.
Horseheads increased its lead to 5-1 when Jenna Richmond scored on Haley Williamson’s single in the seventh. Binghamton made it interesting in the seventh, getting a run in the frame on Emily Zeboris’ RBI single and putting runners on first and second base with two out before reliever Terlaje finally sealed it by getting Alli McGovern to pop out to the shortstop to end the game.
Sophomore Juliana Rich, in her first varsity season for Horseheads, had a fine day Friday as she picked up a pair of victories. She allowed just one unearned run and two hits in five innings against Binghamton, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.
“She’s young, so she just focused on hitting her spots, being confident in her catcher and her defense,” Zoerb said. “Once she was doing that, we didn’t have a problem.”
Pourby went the distance in the finale for Binghamton, giving up nine hits and five runs. Earlier, she outdueled Windsor pitcher Paige Rauch in a 1-0 semifinal victory over the previously unbeaten Black Knights.
Against the defending STAC champions, Binghamton got its lone run in the second inning when Pourby walked and Maeve Redzich doubled to put runners on second and third before Emily Saunders’ groundout to second base scored Pourby.
Pourby tossed a three-hitter against Windsor, striking out six. Rauch threw a four-hitter with seven strikeouts.
“She’s been battling herself the last few weeks,” Binghamton coach Joe Mancinelli said of Pourby. “We’re excited to see that we have our pitcher back, we should be a tough out in Sectionals.”
In Horseheads’ 3-2 win over SV, the Sabers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning before the Blue Raiders came back.
Horseheads tied the score at 1 with a run in the second inning, then took the lead for good when Lexi Abernathy and Richmond delivered run-scoring hits in the fourth inning to put Horseheads up 3-1.