June 30, 2016

Mostly clear

Softball: Seniors help Pirates snap Wildcats’ winning streaks

James Brady

LAGRANGE — The streak is over. Actually, two streaks are over.

The Keystone softball team had been living on the edge this year, coming from behind three times to extend its winning streak to 36 games. But Black River’s three seniors — Dagmar Smith, Megan Scott and Hannah Messenger — provided everything the Pirates needed for a shocking 2-1 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win Saturday.

Senior pitcher Dagmar Smith played a pivotal role in Black River’s stunning upset of Keystone. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE MANHEIM)

“I continue to see our young team grow, even from (Friday),” Black River coach Lauren Toth said, referring to a loss to Crestview. “It was really big of the seniors to come through the way they did. I told them this is what you dream about when you play this game.

“They did all the little things we needed to do to beat a team like Keystone. This is really awesome, and it has to build a lot of confidence for us going forward.”

The loss also ends a 43-game winning streak for the Wildcats

(4-1, 0-1) in the PAC. Their last defeat in conference play came on May 11, 2009, to Wellington (7-0).

“You have to give all the credit to Black River. They really came here to play,” Wildcats coach Jim Piazza said.

“Keystone is an amazing team, but we had it going today,” said Smith, who scattered five hits and allowed just an unearned run. “It feels so good. It gives this young team so much more confidence for the season going forward.

“In softball, some days you have it and some days you don’t. Today everyone had their game going.”

Keystone starting pitcher Emily Cornish (2-1) also had her game going, scattering three hits in the first five innings as the Wildcats snagged a 1-0 lead with aggressive baserunning that eventually cost them chances to score.

In the bottom of the third, Nicole Neri reached on an error and moved up to third on a stolen base and a throwing error by Scott. Darcy Irish grounded to short, and Messenger cut down Neri at the plate.

Irish moved to third in the same manner, stealing second and going to third on a throwing error. This time Keystone cashed in on a Destiny Weber single up the middle for a 1-0 lead.

Megan Scott

The inning ended when Scott bounced back from the two bad throws to cut down Weber trying to steal second. She then threw out Carleigh Harrington in the fourth and Jenny Schaffer in the fifth to short-circuit a pair of Wildcats rallies.

“They are definitely not afraid to steal,” Scott said. “After seeing them going on the bases, I just worked harder to get the ball to the right spot.”

Smith helped her cause by leading off the sixth with a bunt single. Messenger then singled on a swinging bunt that hit in front of the mound and spun back away from Cornish to put runners on first and third with one down.

Scott stepped to the plate and crushed an outside fastball down the right-field line for a two-run double to give the Pirates (2-2, 1-0) a 2-1 lead over the defending Division II state champions.

Smith set down the Wildcats in order in the sixth, but found a little trouble in the seventh when Herrington led off with a single and pinch runner Julie Plas made her way to third with a pair of steals.

Playing left field, Messenger saved the tying run when Scott’s throw to third got away, but Messenger was right there backing up to hold the runner. Smith struck out Melissa Knepper to finish the stunner.

“We have had to come from behind all year, and it may or may not be fair to compare this team to last year’s group,” Piazza said. “Who knows if they can be as good as last year’s team, but I believe in how good this team can be, but they just don’t trust themselves yet. This is a very talented group, and I would rather lose a game now than in the tournament.”

Contact James Brady at sports@medina-gazette.com.

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