TIOGA — The Tioga Tigers hosted the Harpursville Hornets in the Section IV Class C softball tournament semifinals yesterday evening.
Harpursville earned a semifinal spot by upsetting state-ranked Elmira Notre Dame with a five-run seventh inning in their quarterfinal game. Tioga used a five-run seventh inning of their own to beat state-ranked Candor in their quarterfinal matchup.
Thursday evening, Harpursville broke out to a four-run lead and played keep-away the rest of the game. Matching whatever Tioga dished out, the Hornets topped the homestanding Tigers 9-7.
Both offenses continued to have plenty of power in the semifinal matchup. The Hornets scored first by picking up two runs in the top of the second.
Tioga answered with a run in the bottom of the second. Austyn Vance doubled, stole third, and then scored on a passed ball. At the end of the inning, Harpursville had the lead, 2-1.
In the top of the third, the Hornets added three more runs. They capitalized on fielding miscues and timely hitting. Tioga’s pitcher, Kindra Wessels, was able get a strike out and glove a pop fly to limit the damage. Harpursville had extended its lead to 5-1.
The Tigers responded in the bottom of the fourth with two runs. Giovanna Rossi singled to lead off the inning. Julia Bellis was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Vance hit a single which scored Rossi and advanced Bellis to third. Two batters later, Kimberly Tartox singled to left field to score Bellis. Harpursville got the two outs they needed before any more Tigers crossed the plate. Tioga was back within two runs, 5-3.
In the fifth inning, the teams traded two run halves. First, Harpursville capitalized on Tiger miscues and timely hitting. Then Tioga responded in roaring fashion. Olivia Ayres led off and singled. A pop fly left Ayres standing at first when Rossi came to the plate. Rossi crushed the first pitch over the left field fence. The Hornets’ defense managed to snag two pop outs to end the threat. At the end of the fifth, Tioga was still within two runs at 7-5.
The sixth inning proved to be the calm before the storm as both teams went three up, three down.
Harpursville’s offense scored two more runs in the top of the seventh inning to widen the gap to 9-5. Tioga’s offense responded as Ayres led off with a single. Harpursville got a fly out for the first out. Rossi was up next and was able to get to second on an error, advancing Ayres to third. Bellis flied out to center field for the second out, but both runners advanced a base. Ayres scored. With Rossi still on third, Vance tripled to center field. This time Rossi scored. The Tigers once again had the lead down to two runs. However, Hornet pitcher Harley Bunker was able to get the next batter to fly out to end the game.
Tioga’s coach, Heather Klossner, acknowledged the effort of Harpursville’s Bunker and their outfielders throughout the game.
“I think their pitcher pitched a great game, and she crushed the ball (at the plate),” she said. “Their outfield really played great defense. Once we got the timing of the pitcher, we were hitting the ball hard and they made some great plays.”
In spite of a disappointing end to the season, Klossner was pleased to see the continued growth in her team.
“We battled back and made a game of it,” she said. “(It) really shows how much a young team has grown.”
Klossner is also excited for the future “Our battery, they’re really our leaders and they’re young,” she said. “We are not losing anybody, no seniors.”
Bunker pitched a complete game for Harpursville and was the winning pitcher. She scattered 12 hits and struck out five.
Wessels was in the circle for Tioga. She gave up 10 hits and struck out six.
Offensively, Vance led the Tigers with four hits. She was followed by Ayres with three hits and Rossi with two hits including the home run.