SYRACUSE — If Bill Fowler has learned anything in his 14 years as the Sandy Creek softball coach, it’s that you need a little bit of luck to advance in the state tournament.
The Comets received a solid pitching performance from senior Michaela Martin and played flawless defense, but didn’t have any luck on Friday.
Thomas Edison junior McKenzie Slaven pitched a complete game five-hitter and hit a two-run triple to lift the Spartans of Section 4 to a 2-1 win over the Comets in the Class C state quarterfinals at Onondaga Community College’s turf field.
“We fought hard and never gave up. That’s all you can do,” Sandy Creek senior Kylee Martin said.
Sandy Creek (17-4) saw its season end with its third straight appearance in the state tournament.
The Comets stranded the tying run at second base in the fifth and sixth innings, and left a runner on third base to end the game.
Facing a 2-1 deficit in the fifth inning, eighth-grader Carley Stoker hit a deep shot to the gap in left-center field. The ball bounced off the turf and over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Stoker, who hit three home runs during the team’s Section 3 playoff run, was sprinting to third base as the ball bounced over the fence.
“That’s what ends up happening on a little bit of turf,” Fowler said. “I really like this field and we enjoyed playing on it, but that’s the kind of bounce you might get. … Like I’ve said before to these young ladies: ‘Luck is something that, as you advance, you have to have a little bit of it.’”
Shania Darling tripled with one out in the bottom of the seventh to give the Comets hope, but she was stranded to end the game.
Michaela Martin led off the seventh inning with a rip to deep left field that was caught.
“It felt good off the bat but it kind of felt (crappy) when she caught it,” Martin said. “I was waiting for a good pitch to drive off the bat, and it was just bad luck. She was right there and it went right to her.”
Senior Gabriella Guarasce hit a one-out single in the sixth and was bunted over to second by Peyton Miller, but she too was stranded to end the inning.
“Our hits didn’t come in succession,” Fowler said. “We strung them out and just couldn’t put something together.”
Slaven’s triple, which proved to be the game-winning hit, was driven to deep left field with one out in the third inning to give the Spartans (19-2) a 2-1 lead.
“I thought it might go over (the fence) but either way I knew it was far enough to get the runs in and that felt really good,” Slaven said.
The Comets scored their run in the first. Guarasce scored from third while Miller, standing on first base, baited the fielders into a rundown between first and second.
Michaela Martin struck out seven and allowed five hits and two walks in the complete game loss.
Guarasce went 2-for-3 with two singles to lead Sandy Creek.
“That’s a good ball club and you had two good pitchers and good defenses,” Fowler said. “It’s cliché but you don’t want somebody to lose a game like that, but someone’s got to.”
The Comets lose nine seniors, including seven regular starters, from a team that captured its third straight Frontier League “C” Division and Section 3 championships.
HEUVELTON 4, HAMILTON 3
Paige McCormick fanned 12 Hamilton batters and the Section 10 champion Bulldogs scored twice in the eighth inning to earn a spot in next weekend’s state Class D semifinals with a win at SUNY Potsdam.
Heuvelton (20-0) will play the winner of Section 5 Arkport vs. Section 6 Pine Valley at 9 a.m. Saturday at Moreau Rec Park Field in South Glens Falls.
McCormick walked one and allowed eight hits in seven innings, pitching the first five and the final two.
In the pivotal eighth inning, Logan Tallman led off with Heuvelton’s second hit of the day and moved into scoring position on a single from Alexis Sawyer. Hannan Thornhill, who hit a two-run home run in the first inning, then drew a walk and Tallman scored the third run on a wild pitch. McCormick then sacrificed home the Sawyer with a fly ball to right field for the eventual winning run.
Hamilton responded in the eighth with one run. But Tallman gunned out the final batter from shortstop.
Becca Rogers took the loss for Section 3 champion Hamilton (18-1), the state’s top-ranked team. Rogers fanned 12 and allowed four hits.