PLATTSBURGH — Crown Point clung to a 2-1 lead for much of Saturday’s Section VII Class D softball final.
Then in the fifth inning, the Panthers’ first three batters got on base, and all three came home, putting their team in control.
Crown Point went on to defeat Schroon Lake 7-1 at Cardinal Park.
“Just remembering what got us here, that was the big thing,” pitcher Maria Malone said of the Panthers’ fifth-inning turning point. “Coach said, ‘If we’re going to win, this is where we pull it out here.’ And we had excellent defense behind us, and that’s when we pulled out the hits.
“Schroon Lake put up a really good fight.”
Crown Point (9-0) will return to Cardinal Park June 6 to face Section II’s Fort Ann in the NYSPHSAA regional finals.
The top-seeded Panthers grabbed their ninth consecutive Section VII championship and have won 11 of the last 12. Schroon Lake, on the other hand, was a surprise contender. The No. 6 seed had to win a quarterfinal game against Moriah and then knock off No. 2 seed Minerva/Newcomb.
“I think probably Crown Point’s experience in these type of games pulled through,” Schroon Lake coach Jeff Cutting said. “We really haven’t had to play that type of small ball to be successful. We, for the most part, have been able to throw strikes and make plays in the field.
“And we just made a few more mistakes than they did in the field, and we had runners on base a couple different times and didn’t get ‘em in.”
The Wildcats (8-4) started off well — Abby Veverka opened the game with a single and eventually made it home for a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers answered right away. Brittany Foote led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored when Hunter Spaulding laid down a bunt and Schroon Lake made an errant throw. Mara Vradenburg followed with an RBI single to give Crown Point the lead.
“That’s a big thing because getting runs ahead, that makes me feel better,” Malone said. “It makes the girls feel better. It’s easier to get comfortable. Then we can really get into the game.”
Crown Point had the top of its order up in the fifth and took advantage. Foote drew a walk, Spaulding beat the throw after another bunt and Amanda Wolf drove in a run with a grounder down the third-base line. Sacrifices by Abby Carpenter and Malone brought in two more runs for a 5-1 cushion.
Carpenter, a freshman, had to enter the lineup after third baseman Vradenburg was injured in the first inning.
The Panthers tacked on two more runs in the sixth.
Malone scattered six hits in seven innings to earn the win. She struck out eight and walked one.
“Our pitcher and catcher (Logan Harrington) did an excellent job keeping the ball away from their power,” Crown Point coach Mike Ross said. “And it worked.”
While the Panthers were charged with just one error, Ross said they weren’t as focused as usual, noting that they made several base-running mistakes.
Spaulding led them offensively with three hits. Foote had two, and Harrington hit a double.
Dakota Gadway was the only Schroon Lake player with multiple hits; she singled twice. Shawna Fiore went the distance in the pitching circle, fanning one and walking two.
Cutting said the Wildcats made great progress throughout the season. They started out 2-4 and “were just trying to have a winning season.”
“For us it’s a huge step forward. Our girls have never been here in the finals before,” Cutting added. “And I don’t know how many batteries come into the sectional finals that are freshmen. My pitcher and my catcher (Julianna Finnerty) are freshmen.
“We’ve got a lot to be proud of and to build on.”
Crown Point 7, Schroon Lake 1
Schroon Lake 100 000 0 — 1 6 3
Crown Point 200 032 x — 7 12 1
S. Fiore and Finnerty. Malone and Harrington. WP- Malone. LP- Fiore. 2B- Foote (CP), Harrington (CP).
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