SARANAC LAKE - Starting fast and being clutch at the finish.
That's how Saranac Lake's softball team claimed one of its biggest wins ever, knocking off previously unbeaten Saranac Thursday in a 7-6 thriller.
Playing on their home diamond, the Red Storm scored five times in their first at-bat to grab a 5-0 lead, then rallied for the victory in the bottom of the sixth inning when Sydney Battistoni ripped a double to send the tying and winning runs across the plate.
While Saranac Lake’s players Sydney Battistoni and Brittany Tschirhart hug in the background, teammates Chelsea LaFountain (left) and Jordy MacDougall are all smiles leaving the field after Thursday’s victory over previously unbeaten Saranac Central.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Lake sealed the win in the top of the seventh behind relief pitcher Brittany Tschirhart, who threw the final two innings. After taking over for starter Nicole Viscardo with the score tied 5-5, Tschirhart threw a wild pitch in the sixth that allowed the Chiefs to take a one-run edge. But working with a 7-6 lead in the seventh, she allowed just one of four Saranac batters to reach base when Samantha Aierle singled with two outs.
The game ended when Red Storm left fielder Megan Kilroy chased down a fly ball off the bat of Saranac's Tori Trim for the final out of the contest.
Despite walking 11 Saranac batters and putting three more on base via hit-by-pitches, Viscardo and Tschirhart combined to give up just three hits,
"This was the biggest win I've ever been a part of," said Saranac Lake second baseman Abby Lewis, who is one of three seniors on the team. "They were unbeaten and now they are not because of us."
"It was a big game for my girls," Saranac Lake head coach Diana Schwartz said. "They were pumped and ready to play. We got five runs in that first inning, and although we walked a lot in that inning, we put runners across the plate.
"My girls wanted it bad and they came through," Schwartz added. "It was awesome."
After coming up empty in their first at-bat, the Chiefs sent their ace, Kourtnie Campbell, to the pitcher's circle to face the Red Storm. She struggled from the start, walking four of Saranac Lake's first five batters. Batting sixth in the order, Lewis then singled in two runs for a 3-0 Saranac Lake lead. With two outs, junior Shannon Stevens doubled to send two more runners across the plate, which ultimately chased Campbell from the game.
Saranac answered with four runs in the top of the second as Viscardo ran into problems in the pitcher's circle. During the inning, she hit two batters, walked four more, gave up a single, allowed two runs to be scored on wild pitches and another on a throwing error. But after escaping the frame with a 5-4 lead, Viscardo settled down and pitched through the fifth inning.
"She was just anxious," Schwartz said of her starting pitcher. "The good thing is, she doesn't get rattled. I wanted her to get through one more inning, but we had to bring Brittany in and she got the job done."
The teams played scoreless ball in the third inning and Saranac tied the game at 5-5 in the fourth in what turned out to be a wild play. Campbell singled to start the frame, and Viscardo then hit a batter and walked another to load the bases. Heather Derocher then swatted a pop fly to second, and Lewis was hit in the head attempting to field the ball. While she was lying on the ground, Campbell scored the tying run, but the Red Storm defense picked two runners off during the confusion. Saranac Lake then got out of the inning when Viscardo scooped up a grounder and tossed it to first for the third out.
The fifth inning was also scoreless, and shortstop Alisha Ducatte then scored a go-ahead run for Saranac in the sixth, sliding into home to beat the throw on a wild pitch with one out. Tschirhart, however, got the fourth and fifth Chiefs batters to fly out to end the inning.
That set the stage for Saranac Lake's winning at-bat. The sixth started with Kilroy and Moody both singling to reach base, and with no outs, Battistoni crushed a pitch off Trim, who was Saranac's reliever, into the outfield to push her two teammates across the plate with the tying and what proved to be the game-winning run.
Tschirhart did get into trouble to start the top of the seventh, walking two of Saranac's first three batters. But the Chiefs stranded runners on first and second as two fly balls sent to the outfield were snatched up by the Saranac Lake defense to end the game.
"Saranac Lake played well," said Saranac head coach Ralph Cross. "The got the big hit in the sixth and their defense made the big plays when they needed them. We made a run at them, but they got the lead back and held us off."
The Chiefs dropped to 11-1 in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference with the loss while Saranac Lake improved to 7-4. It was the second win in as many days for the Red Storm, who will have another tough task on tap today when they host the Peru Indians, who are second in the CVAC standings. The matchup will be part of a fight cancer benefit game and Saranac Lake's players will be wearing pink jerseys. The contest is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. and Viscardo will again start on the mound for Saranac Lake.
Saranac Lake 7, Saranac Central 6
Viscardo, Tschirhart (6) and Rabideau. Campbell, Trim (2) and Furnia. WP - Tschirhart. LP - Trim. 2B - LoTemplio (S), Stevens (SL), Battistoni (SL).