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May 9, 2009

 

Cross goes deep early to ignite Red Dragons

SUNYBob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland catcher Sammi Dieffenbach, seen here in March, delivered a big double in Friday’s 3-0 NCAA tourney win over Buffalo State.

ITHACA — If the SUNY Cortland softball squad was looking for an early emotional lift, sophomore leadoff hitter Donnalyn Cross certainly provided one during the second day of play at the NCAA Division III Regionals.
Cross, the sophomore second baseman out of Chenango Valley, homered on the first pitch she saw to open the bottom of the first inning and junior pitcher Katie Finch tossed a two-hit shutout as the Red Dragons defeated Buffalo State 3-0 in a winner’s bracket game Friday afternoon.
Finch struck out 11 Bengals in this rematch of last weekend’s SUNY Athletic Conference playoff title game, won by Buffalo State in eight innings.
Earning revenge sends the top-seeded Red Dragons into a 10 a.m. winner’s bracket showdown this morning with second-seed Rochester back at Ithaca College’s Kostrinsky Field — with the survivor taking a big step closer towards advancing into the NCAA Division III World Series.
The victory is also the 42nd this season for Coach Julie Lenhart’s squad, tying a single-season school record set in 2003. Rochester (33-10) and Cortland (42-6) are the lone unbeaten teams left in this seven-school, double-elimination tournament.
Play began yesterday with St. John Fisher sending King’s College home with a 4-2 victory, followed by Rochester’s 10-2 romp past Keuka College in five innings and Cortland’s blanking of Buffalo State. St. John Fisher then beat Keuka 7-6 in an elimination contest to stay alive in the tournament.
After the Cortland-Rochester game today, Buffalo State and St. John Fisher will meet in a noontime elimination contest. The Cortland-Rochester loser faces the Buffalo State-SJF winner at 2 p.m. today.
Cortland and Buffalo State met for the sixth time this season. The Red Dragons swept the Bengals during a regular season doubleheader en route to a first place regular season finish in SUNYAC play, with Buffalo State winning two of three confrontations last weekend in the conference playoffs.
This sixth meeting was all Cortland, starting when Cross cracked that first offering by Buffalo State starter Jenna Frieling over the fence down the right field line to give the Red Dragons the only run they needed.
The Red Dragons added a run in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Catcher Sammi Dieffenbach led off with a double and pinch runner Lexi Deming went to third on a Bethany Williamson sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Rose Morrison beat out a grounder to shortstop for an infield single to score Deming.
Cortland scored its final run in the sixth, starting with back-to-back singles by Jessica Harman and Emily Ringen to lead off the inning. Dieffenbach successfully bunted Harman and pinch runner Cait Carner to third and second, respectively, and Williamson hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Harman.
Finch allowed only two hits and three total base-runners as she improved to 24-4 on the year. The previous day, she hurled a one-hitter as Cortland defeated Penn State-Behrend 1-0.
Both Buffalo State hits came in the second inning, one-out back-to-back singles by Marissa Mariano and Kyrstin Lekki. Finch, however, struck out the next batter and got a pop-up to herself to end the threat.
The Bengals’ other baserunner came with one out in the fourth when Finch dropped a pop-up off the bat of Nicole Sabuda. Harman made a nice catch from her shortstop position on a foul pop-up and Finch struck out the next batter to end the inning.
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Top SUNYAC Honors
For Red Dragon Trio
Cortland players Cross, Finch and Harman were part all part of post-season conference softball honors, with Cross and Buffalo State’s Sabuda being named SUNYAC Co-Players of the Year. Finch was the repeat selection as SUNYAC Pitcher of the Year, while freshman shortstop Harman was the Rookie of the Year.
Two other Red Dragons – sophomore outfielder Brooke Weidman and senior outfielder Bethany Williamson – joined Cross, Finch and Harman as first-team All-SUNYAC selections.
Cross entered the NCAA tournament hitting .386 with eight doubles, 12 triples, three home runs, 16 stolen bases and a .679 slugging percentage. She hit .403 in confernece play.
In the SUNYAC regular-season, Finch was 9-1 with two saves, a 0.96 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 65 and two-third innings. Harman had a .323 batting average and a team-high 32 RBIs entering NCAA play.

Cortland 3, Buffalo State 0
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By innings: R H E
Buffalo State 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
SUNY Cortland 110 001 x — 3 7 1
Buffalo State- Jenna Frieling (L, 10-10), Aimee Fisher (6) and Nicole Sabuda. Cortland- Katie Finch (W, 24-4) and Sammi Dieffenbach
2bh- Sammi Dieffenbach (C), Jackie Begnoche (C). HR- Donnalyn Cross (C)