BYRON — After a long ride, the Hall Lady Devils got off the bus ready to play some of their best softball of the season against the highly favored Stillman Valley Cardinals. They played them even until the final inning when an onslaught of Cardinal drives plated four runs to give Stillman a 5-1 victory.
“It was a great game for us,” said senior captain and shortstop Brenna Faletti. “They obviously had a much better record than us and it was 1-1 in the top of the seventh. I’m happy with how we played, and I think everyone should be.”
The first six innings of the game were a classic pitchers’ duel, highlighted by strikeouts, weak popups, soft liners and stellar defense.
Hall (12-11) got on the board first courtesy of a walk in the fourth inning to senior catcher Rebecca Herrmann. She was sacrificed to second on a bunt by junior Elle Herrmann then advanced to third on a single by Abbey Azarskis before scoring on an infield single by freshman third bagger Rena Barroso.
Barroso’s hustle made the play as it forced Cardinal shortstop Karissa Dobson, who had ranged deep into the hole to field the grounder, to rush the throw which sailed just high and left, pulling the first baseman of the bag.
“Pikula pitched her tail off today,” said Hall coach Pete Kasperski, who is retiring. “And our defense was excellent. The amazing thing is we were relaxed. I don’t think they expected this. They were in a fight for their life.”
Sophomore Adrianna Pikula pitched the entire game relying on her defense — Faletti in the center of it. In the top of the fourth, after a leadoff walk and stolen base, Faletti started a double play that went from short to first and then back to third to get the runner trying to take an extra base.
That play was immediately followed by a running catch of a foul pop by left fielder Haily Goetz as she ran into the fence.
The Cardinals tied the score in the top of the sixth without the aid of a hit. A walk, a sacrifice bunt and two consecutive hit batters loaded the bases before a sacrifice fly to medium deep right field plated the runner.
The inning could have been much worse except Faletti made a beautiful pick and throw on a hard grounder to the hole. It was virtually the same play the Cardinal shortstop was unable to complete in the bottom of the inning.
Outside of the fourth inning when they scored their run, the Red Devils were simply unable to do anything against junior pitcher Payton Abbot, who scattered three hits while striking 10.
“She’s good. We haven’t seen that many great pitchers this year, so it took us a while to adjust,” Faletti said. “It’s been a long time, since Sherard, that we’ve seen that good of pitcher.”
The Cardinals took command of the game in the top of the seventh when Lexi Morrision stroked a long drive off the top of the fence in right field, missing a go-ahead homer by just a foot. Ending up on second base, she wasn’t there too long as Courtney Fernette came up next and stroked a deep drive to right. It bounced off the right fielder’s glove as she converged with the fence, scoring Morrison with Fernette ending up on third.
An out later, Fernette scored on a bloop single and then with two outs and two on, Abbot gave herself a huge cushion when she drove in both runners with a long triple to left field.
This marks the end of the eight-year tenure of Kasperski as the Lady Devil head coach. Though it ended with a late inning defeat, Kasperski could not be more proud of his team.
“It probably won’t sink in for a while,” Kasperski said about this being his last game. “These girls were great to coach, and we had a great run. It’s time. It’s time for me to hang it up and give someone else a chance.”
The 12-11 Lady Devils return as regional champs and head into next season with a young and talented squad. Ron Hollman of Newark will be their new coach.
Meanwhile the 26-2 Cardinals head to the sectional championship for the second consecutive year.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.