EAST SYRACUSE — When you get to this level of softball, it’s the little things that make the difference. Oneida did a better job of that than Waverly did Friday in the Central Region championship game.
The result was a 3-1 win for Oneida that sends the Indians to the New York State Class B semifinals and ends the Lady Wolverines’ season.
Oneida’s Kyra Shlotzhauer danced on the outside edge of the plate all game long and got the calls on the corner. Waverly failed to adequately adjust to that and ended the game with just four hits.
Waverly’s Wendi Hammond was nearly as dominant, holding the Indians to five hits and striking out eight.
It was the other little things that are sending the Indians to the semis.
Waverly went up 1-0 in the top of the third. The one mistake that Shlotzhauer made was to the wrong batter. With one out and nobody on, Shlotzhauer left the ball a little too close to the center of the plate and Hammond crushed it for her 14th home run of the season.
Other than that, Riley Hall, Morgan Adams and Paige Lewis had a single each. Of the remaining 24 at-bats, 16 either went to the pitcher or the left side of the infield, or were strikeouts. By the time Waverly’s hitters adjusted and started going for the opposite field it was too late.
“We had to make the adjustment. She was going outside all game,” said Hammond. “We had to get on the plate. We harped about it and we just didn’t make the adjustment tonight. I think that hurt us against a team like this.”
“She did a great job of pounding the outside zone,” said Waverly coach Brian Wendela of Shlotzhauer. “We struggled with that pitch. We worked on it but we struggled with it.”
A Waverly defense that’s normally solid made two mistakes in the game but just one mattered. In the bottom of the third inning, Adriana Chappa, the eighth batter in the order, took a pitch off the helmet. Mary Robello moved her up a base and Chappa scored on an RBI single by Kaylin Curro.
Lauren Skibitski then reached on a roller to second. Sydney Lusher grounded to third, but Waverly’s first baseman had to cover some distance to get to the plate. With the play developing slowly, Curro broke for the plate. The throw home beat Curro by 15 feet, but the ball dropped to the ground and Curro scored.
In the Oneida fifth, Chappa singled and went to second on a disputed single by Robello. Both moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt and Chappa scored on a hit by Skibitski.
Waverly had runners on base in six of the seven innings, but couldn’t bring them around. Part of that was the timing. Hall’s hit and a walk to Hammond came with two gone. Adams’ hit came with one down as did Adriannah Clinton wearing a pitch in the seventh. In each case Shlotzhauer, who fanned 11 on the night, struck out the next two batters. The only time a Waverly batter led off with a hit was Lewis’s single in the fourth. Morgan Lee sacrificed her to second, but again strikeouts followed.
“At the end of the day, Oneida’s a great, well-coached team,” said Wendela. “They field their positions well. She (Shlotzhauer) hit her spots when she needed to and she made the big pitches when she needed to and complemented it well with a nice change-up.”
At the end of the day, Hammond was happy with the season.
“We’ve done a lot this season. We’ve done more than people would imagine,” she said. “We won sectionals and that hasn’t happened before in history. To do that this year is really special.”
Wendela agreed, saying “This is 42 years in the making. The first softball team was in 1977. We have nothing to be upset about. We have a Section IV championship and a regional runner-up.”