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June 3, 2008

 

Ninth inning escape for Trojans

Reach semifinals on clutch McKenna Riley blow

Trojans

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
The ball bounces away from Homer Central shortstop Ashley Brown as ES-M baserunner Andee Fox makes it into second safely on Monday. Homer was 4-3 winner in extra innings.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

There were clutch hits, solid pitching and good defense on display Monday at Homer Elementary School.
But the biggest hit of all was a one-out RBI triple by McKenna Riley in the bottom of the ninth inning that enabled Homer Central to avoid an upset with a thrilling 4-3 victory over East Syracuse-Minoa in Section 3 Class A quarterfinal softball action.
The top-seeded Trojans (20-2 overall) will next face fourth-seed and OHSL Freedom Division rival Phoenix in Wednesday’s semifinals. The Firebirds (23-3) downed fifth-seed Whitesboro (15-7) 4-1.
Homer and Phoenix will square off at 5 p.m. at the Hopkins Road softball facility in Syracuse.
“I just kept my head up,” said Riley, who had just the one hit for Homer. “I kept taking pointers from my teammates. I finally got a hit and it saved the day. I love playing with my sister (Halee). I am glad I could get the hit today and I really am going to miss playing with her next year.”
While the junior provided the winning hit, her senior sister pitched all nine innings. Halee Riley allowed two earned runs, five hits and recorded 12 strikeouts.
“I had confidence in her,” said the older sister. “I knew she would be there and that she could do it.”
It was an emotional roller-coaster ride for the Trojan pitcher as her team fell behind early, forged ahead and then lost the lead when a two-run homer by ES-M’s Jen Lee tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the seventh. Riley refocused and retired the next three batters to end the inning.
Only one Spartan batter reached base in the two extra innings.
“It was very hard emotionally,” said Halee Riley. “It came down to which team and players could keep their heads in the game the best and we were able to do that.”
“Our girls gave it their best effort,” said ES-M coach Chris Brown. “Homer has a great line-up. They are so tough to pitch to from top to bottom. They just hit the ball. We did the best we could. (Pitcher) Lauren Daly gave us everything she had.”
“Everyone really stepped up today,” said Homer coach Cris Colasurdo. “We had a lot of people get some key hits. We hung tough. Kenna was due for a hit and came through. She kept her head on the ball and really connected.
“It has been a long time since we had a 20-win season,” Colasurdo added. “I think it has been more than 10 years. Cheryl Carboine had some really good teams and I believe when they went to sectionals they had 20 wins. Our goal was to get past our first sectional game and advance farther. We now head to the semifinals and will look to keep the momentum going.”
The Spartans (14-12) took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the top of the first inning. Daly reached base on an error and Mallory Martino sacrificed her to second base. Daly scored on a single by Andee Fox and Chelsea Casciano (2-for-4) reached on a fielder’s choice after a dropped throw at second base left two runners on base.
Halee Riley would retire the next 12 batters, six by strikeouts, before a single by Brittany Gmyr with one out in the fifth.
The Trojan defense backed their pitcher with solid play as well. Brown and Halee Riley made several nice scoops of ground balls and made perfect throws to first base.
Homer got two runners on base in the first and third innings, but could not score, but in the fourth the Trojans tied the game. Ashley Brown reached base on a error. Brown moved to second on a ground out and was sacrificed to third by Jamie Gray. Jessica Rigg (2-for-4) tripled to left field to tie the game at 1-1.
In the bottom of the fifth, Homer took the lead. Courtney Rainbow (4-for-5) led off with a single and moved to second on a ground ball by Danielle Swarm. Stephanie Hartquist (2-for-4) was intentionally walked and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Gabby Luety then delivered her only hit, a triple into the right-centerfield gap to put the Trojans in front 3-1.
The Spartans broke through in the top of the seventh. Casciano singled and Lee followed with a home run to deep centerfield. Riley refocused and retired the next two batters with strikeouts before a ground out ended the threat. Casciano was the only runner to reach base with a one-out single in the ninth.
With one out, Homer put the game away and advanced to the semifinals. Brown singled and stole second base to get into scoring position. McKenna Riley belted a 1-0 pitch into left-centerfield gap and the celebration began.
“It was important to win today,” said McKenna Riley. “We are all excited about going to the                semifinals.