BY RYAN COBB Sports writer
LOOK OUT! — RFA’s Melissa Gilbert ducks but gets hit by a pitch thrown by Syracuse East’s Rachel Mertens during the Lady Knights’ Senior Game on Thursday at Kost Field. Gilbert later hit a RBI-double in the fourth inning, but Rome went on to lose 4-1. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)
The Rome Free Academy softball team found itself in the exact same situation it was in last week against Baldwinsville, with the game tied in the seventh inning.
The ending did not go in the Lady Black Knights’ favor then, losing 2-1, and the result didn’t go their way on Thursday, either, against visiting Central New York Counties League foe Syracuse East. While holding another 1-1 tie in the seventh, mistakes and bad luck haunted the girls and it cost them once again another shot at a win as they dropped a 4-1 Senior Night decision at Kost Field.
Pitcher Hannah Wasco was strong on the mound throughout, giving up just the one run on six hits, and looked like she was going to cruise on past the seventh on a night when nine seniors, including herself, were honored. Then with two outs in the top of the seventh, everything once again fell apart as three runs came around to score.
Syracuse’s Aliyah Wade started the rally when she connected on a fastball for a high pop up to the shortstop Alex Kimmel, who had difficulty tracking the ball when it was in the air, and the ball bounced right off her outstretch glove to put Wade at first base. Soon afterwards, Wade took off for a stolen base attempt and safely made it in when the pickoff throw sailed past second, causing Wade to bolt for third on the miscue. The toss from the outfield, however, was also over thrown to third, and Wade headed to home plate to score the go-ahead run as a third attempt to get her out went past catcher Kaysie Gregory.
Syracuse would then follow with two straight singles by Marcelina Wade and Rachel Mertens, then Nicole Alexander reached on an error to set up a bases loaded threat against Wasco with Ashley Jarvis heading to the plate. On an even 2-2 count, she put the icing on the cake with a hard hit up the middle of the diamond into the outfield for a two-run double.
Syracuse East coach Sue Bilderback said her squad proved they can come together at the end when it counts the most.
"I think they really pulled together as a team," she said after her squad took advantage of four errors in the inning by the Lady Knights. "We’ve really spent a lot on our team effort. This is definitely a team win. We’re looking forward to going into the post season."
Mertens went on to shut the Lady Knights down in the bottom of the frame to claim the winning decision on the mound while giving up three hits and striking out eight with her one earned run coming off a RBI double by Melissa Gilbert to score Courtney Tasco from second and tie the game at 1-1 in the fourth.
The win raises Syracuse East’s record to 6-7 overall in their first season in which the city’s Nottingham and Henninger high school teams combined to form one group. Bilderback said the move has certainly paid off.
"I think combining was a great thing," she said. "We’ve always had different pieces of the puzzle and now we got the whole thing. I think by combining it’s made our program a lot stronger."
RFA head coach Jerry Tabolt said aside from the three-run inning, there was another issue his squad had as well, which was getting runners to score when they were in position. Five times the Lady Knights failed to bring a runner in scoring position home, including a runner being left at third base.
Wasco connected with a leadoff triple in the second but was not brought home even though there was nobody out when she reached base. Another opportunity escaped in the third when Gregory got to third on two errors by first baseman Chyanna Canada, as well as in the sixth after Tasco got on with a single then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Wasco and a wild pitch by Mertens with one out.
"It’s a simple game. We got to be able to throw and catch it," he said. "We didn’t do a very good job of that today. That’s what it comes down to. Not only that but maybe a bigger thing was we had a lot more scoring opportunities early in the game. Three times we had runners on base twice with less than two out and we didn’t get the ball past the pitcher. If you can’t do that, you don’t deserve to win."
Wasco recorded the loss in the outing after seven innings and giving up the four runs, on nine hits with no walks and striking out 10.
RFA will visit Oswego tonight at 5 before hosting the Sally Page Tournament on Saturday.