Late runs lead Witches past Panthers
HOOSICK, N.Y. — The Hoosick Falls softball team's winning formula has been pretty clear throughout its strong regular season.
The Panthers can always rely on pitcher Abby Philpott to have a quality outing and the offense to do its part to provide adequate support.
In the past few games, the second part of that equation hasn't been what Hoosick Falls wants it to be and the Panthers struggled at times offensively in a 4-2 loss to Greenwich Thursday afternoon.
This week's slate was a challenge for Hoosick Falls to prove its worth as a top team in the Wasaren League. A matchup with Tamarac Wednesday, followed by Thursday's affair with the Witches, provided a big test for the Panthers.
Hoosick was no-hit by the Bengals' Maggie Kelley on Wednesday and it hoped to right that ship against Greenwich.
The early offensive returns didn't look good for the Panthers as Haley Spiezio wasted little time getting comfortable in the circle for the Witches.
Speizio fanned Sophie Estes to lead off the bottom of the first and induced a pair of ground outs to the shortstop on the next two batters. The next inning she forced Hoosick Falls to hit pop ups to the catcher and first baseman and in the third she struck out the side.
Early on, Hoosick Falls struggled to make any solid contact with Spiezio's pitches and weren't forcing the right-hander to throw many pitches.
"We've been struggling at the plate. We went 10 hitless innings over the past two games," said Panthers coach Eamonn DeGraaf. "It was a struggle early. We just have to start hitting the ball and things will come together for us."
Greenwich put pressure on Hoosick Falls early with Eliza Jordan reaching base on the second at-bat of the game. Following a fielder's choice and a walk, Spiezio helped herself out by singling to drive in Courtney Fraher.
After Philpott retired the Witches in order in the second, Greenwich ripped a trio of hits in the third to add another run.
The Panthers bats finally came alive in the fourth inning when Estes hit a hard line drive into center field to break up Spiezio's no-hitter and snap the hitless streak.
Olivia Brownell ripped a single of her own two hitters later and Philpott knotted the game 2-2 with a single that scored both runners.
Seeing the offense finally start to show signs of life was an encouraging sign for the Panthers.
"We started making contact, which is what allowed us to score runs," DeGraaf said. "When you don't make contact, you don't have a chance to score, especially at this level. The girls are going to throw strikes. They're not going to walk you when you play teams like this.
That fourth-inning spurt chased Spiezio from the game, but Hoosick Falls couldn't add from there.
Defense cost the Panthers in the fifth inning. Jordan reached on a throwing error and she got all the way around to third base as the ball dribbled into the outfield and Hoosick Falls struggled to play it. The next batter was Fraher and she hit a grounder to third base, where Panthers third baseman Lyric Kriner made the play and had plenty of time to get the running Jordan at the plate. The throw went off line though and that allowed Jordan to score to take the lead.
Greenwich added another run in the top of the seventh on a Spiezio single and went into the Panthers' final at-bat up by two runs.
The Panthers had a some defensive miscues early in the game as well and DeGraaf feels like those just come down to mental errors.
"I told the girls right after the game that in softball every run is important," DeGraaf said. "A two-run game as opposed to a one-run game going into the seventh is a huge difference. We have to clean those mental mistakes up. I think they were mental more than physical, just not knowing what's going on at that point in the game. If we clean up those mental mistakes, we're going to compete with teams like Greenwich and Tamarac."
Hoosick Falls had a chance to tie the game in the seventh inning. Lily Abbott led off with a single, and following a strike out, Ashley Pacheco singled as well to put two runners on. Even with one out already, DeGraaf had Kriner lay down a sacrifice bunt, which she executed perfectly, to get the tying run into scoring position. The Panthers trusted the top of their lineup to do the damage and score those runs, but lead-off hitter Estes struck out looking to end the game.
The loss drops Hoosick Falls to 8-4 on the year and they play rival Cambridge on Monday on the road.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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