SYRACUSE — At the beginning of every season, LaFargeville softball sets the same goals: win the Frontier League regular-season championship, the league playoff championship and to make a good run in sectionals.
With the Red Knights’ 8-3 win over Hamilton in Monday’s Section 3 Class D title game at Carrier Park, they went 3-for-3 on those goals.
Much like their season as a whole, victory was never really in doubt for the top-seeded and undefeated Red Knights (19-0). After going down 1-0 in the first inning against No. 3 Hamilton (15-4), LaFargeville put up four runs in the second and cruised.
LaFargeville meets Section 10’s Edwards-Knox (12-5) in a state regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Carrier Park.
Hamilton scored its first run when pitcher Sarah Johnson uncharacteristically loaded the bases and walked in a run. LaFargeville coach Danielle Wallace wasn’t all that nervous.
“We had all the faith in Sarah to get us out of that,” Wallace said. “For her to walk in a run, it’s very unheard of. But I knew it was the beginning of the game, we told the girls that we had lots of game left. We weren’t really worried about it too much, we felt we were gonna hit.”
Even with the bases loaded, Johnson kept to her game plan.
“I just think about throwing strikes,” Johnson said. “And my team is behind me to field them.”
Johnson worked quickly after first inning, she sent down nine straight batters after her bases-loaded walk. Aiding her on the mound though was the defense behind her.
With most balls not leaving the dirt, the infielders continuously made plays in big spots — the biggest being the top of the seventh.
After Abby Gaumes had already made two spectacular putouts at short, third baseman Miranda Brown retrieved an errant throw and nabbed Kyleigh Pearson at the plate for the final out as she attempted to score.
“We’re solid on defense, an error here or an error there, that hasn’t cost us,” Wallace said. “Hopefully it won’t.”
The Red Knights’ offensive production has been a difference maker.
Wallace said that she has faith in any one of the girls in her lineup to make contact and get on base. They proved that Monday with five batters recording at least one hit and all but one batter reaching base.
The biggest threat offensively was catcher Izzy Soluri. She picked up three singles and drove in four runs, two that came in the second and gave LaFargeville the lead.
Soluri said she’s been in a slump. Wallace doesn’t see it that way.
“What she thinks is struggling is not what we think is struggling,” Wallace said. “She’s hitting over .500 right now.”
For as good as the Red Knights have been at the plate, they were going up against Beth Belanger — Hamilton’s ace who had not given up a run in three games before Monday.
“I just knew I had to come up big for my team today,” Soluri said. “We struggled hitting a little bit in the semifinals [against Fabius-Pompey] so I just knew we had to have big day at the plate, and I just came with that mindset.”
LaFargeville’s win over Fabius-Pompey in Saturday’s semifinal game was a 2-1, walk-off thriller. While the Red Knights advanced to a sectional title game, it also provided a sense of closure — Fabius-Pompey ousted the Red Knights in 2018.
From that loss though, a motto was born. Before and after every one of LaFargeville’s 18 wins this season, the team huddles together and chants “unfinished business.” For the senior-heavy team, this was their last shot at glory, making the win all the sweeter.
“It’s amazing to see our seniors succeed,” junior Kamryn Barnes said.
The Red Knights posed for one last photo opp on the grass outside of the Carrier Park field where they had just celebrated. The row of girls kneeling in front held up pieces of red-and-black construction paper that spelled out “-unfinished.” After the crowd of excited parents snapped a few photos on their phones, the Red Knights dropped the “U-N.”
They finished business.