MOREAU — Shawna McIntosh emphatically pumped both fists, let out a triumphant yell and leapt into the arms of teammate Hannah Palmer.
After years of futility against powerhouse Fort Ann, the Crown Point softball team came out on top.
The Panthers took advantage of uncharacteristic sloppy play from the Cardinals to seize the lead in the sixth inning, and McIntosh pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to seal the 5-3 win Friday in a NYSPHSAA Class D regional at Moreau Recreational Park.
The defending state champion Cardinals had bested Crown Point in the Panthers’ previous six regional appearances, including the last three seasons.
Crown Point coach Mike Ross described the win as “surreal.”
“I’m just astonished by these girls, with the heart they have,” Ross said. “I’m just surprised and overwhelmed. I’m tickled to death that we could beat them. That is such a well-coached team.”
Crown Point (12-0) heads to next weekend’s state semifinals for just the second time; the first trip came in 2007.
The 16th-ranked Panthers play Section V’s Alfred-Almond at 9 a.m. Saturday, with the winner advancing to the 1:30 p.m. championship the same day.
“It feels like a dream, honestly,” Crown Point senior Cassie Ashe said. “It’s so unreal that we did this, and we are excited to be playing next Saturday.”
The fourth-ranked Cardinals, out of Section II, had reached the state final four the past seven seasons.
“I don’t think the best team won, but it is what it is,” Fort Ann coach Jason Humiston said. “They beat us, fair and square. If we play 10 times, I think we beat them nine, but all they had to do was beat us (Friday).”
McIntosh was the losing pitcher against Fort Ann the last two years.
After getting the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh Thursday, it appeared McIntosh would reverse her fortunes.
Fort Ann then loaded the bases on a double down the third-base line, an error and a walk.
“With the bases loaded and two outs, I moved everybody around to where their normal positions were, hoping they would feel more comfortable there, and then I just turned around and faced that way,” Ross said, motioning away from the field.
But his senior ace came through, including a grounder back to the mound.
“All I was thinking was, ‘Do not overthrow first base,’” McIntosh said. “That’s really all it was, and once she caught that ball I was in tears, I was so happy.”
The Panthers trailed 3-2 when Palmer, Swade Potter and McIntosh all singled to load the bases leading off the sixth inning.
Palmer and Potter scored the tying and go-ahead runs on an errant throw home.
Sarah McIntosh added an RBI single to make it 5-3.
Crown Point scored its first two runs on two errors.
“We’ll take ‘em any way we can get ‘em,” Ross said.
The Panthers weren’t the only beneficiary of defensive miscues.
Amanda Godfrey gave Fort Ann a 1-0 lead scoring on a wild pitch in the first inning.
The Cardinals added two in the third inning via two errors and an RBI single from Jenna Siaulnski.
“We constantly pound in each other’s heads to keep your head up,” Shawna McIntosh said. “You make a mistake, you shake it off.”
Fort Ann senior ace Kayla Bailey took the loss for the Cardinals (13-7) despite striking out 15 and scattering six hits.
“I’m so proud of my team,” said Palmer, who finished with three hits and three stolen bases. “We really worked hard for this — from the top to the bottom of the lineup, we’re always in the barn hitting, we’re always trying to get better.”
Crown Point 5, Fort Ann 3
Crown Point 000 203 0 — 5 6 4
Fort Ann 102 000 0 — 3 4 3
Sh. McIntosh and Palmer. Bailey and Lehoisky. WP- Sh. McIntosh. LP- Bailey. 2B- Ostrander (FA).