LOWVILLE — The South Jefferson Spartans needed two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game but managed to get only one Saturday. As a result the Spartans fell to the Adirondack Wildcats 4-3 in the Section 3 Class B softball semifinals.
Controversy stirred in the bottom of the seventh when South Jefferson’s Alayna Bush was called out for leaving first base too early on a steal attempt for the first out of the inning. The Spartans had scored already scored a run in the inning and bidding for more.
“You hate to have that call at that time,” South Jefferson coach Steve Randall said. “Call it on me in the first inning, our kids run aggressively, whatever. You don’t call that there. We do a rock step, it’s different from how most teams run. But, it’s just one of those things.”
Sarah Busler and Jillian Hare singled later in the inning following Bush being called out. The game ended as McKenzi Burnham hit a line drive up the middle that Adirondack pitcher Hannah Miller snatched out of the air.
The two teams sat tied at 1-1 until the top of the fifth inning when Adirondack’s Emma Hennessey connected with a high fastball and drilled it into the right center field gap, splitting the outfielders just enough to allow her to score on a three-run home run.
It was the second home run of the game for the Wildcats (16-3). Miller hit a deep bomb to left field in the first inning to put Adirondack up 1-0.
Aside from the seventh inning, the Spartans’ best chance to take the lead in the game came in the bottom of the fourth with the game tied at one. With the bases loaded and two outs, lead-off hitter Alexys Gayne connected with Miller’s pitch and hit to deep right center. But the fly ball, having hit off the end of her bat, fell into the glove of center fielder Liz Lawrence, who had time to cut over into the gap.
“We had one of the best hitters in the league up, she a had a great fly ball, she just got under it a little bit,” Randall said. “It was a good opportunity for us, we left a lot of people on base.”
Defensively the Spartans (18-3) did everything they could to keep themselves in the game. Shortstop Leah Briones made a standout defensive play when she tracked down a pop up in foul territory on the third base side and dove at the last second to make the catch.
“Leah was just amazing,” Randall said. “You will never see that pop up ever in the years you watch softball in high school, never. I’ve been here a long time, seen thousands of games. You will never see that pop up caught in your life again.”
Randall made sure to tell his team afterward how impressive their defensive effort was.
“We dove, we caught balls, we dove to stop runs,” Randall said. “We played well, we played well and that’s the part that hurts, we played well.”
For seniors Hannah McNamara, Sara Busler, Abby Sullivan, Alexys Gayne and Leah Briones, Saturday’s loss was particularly emotional.
When asked why she loves her teammates, Briones said “because we’ve been through everything together.”