Wild finish gives Storm a boost

Saranac Lake’s Maggie Carpenter beats the tag attempt by Plattsburgh catcher Alyssa Hemingway while sliding home with the game-winning run on Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Earning an exciting victory in the last game of the regular season is a great way to head into the playoffs.

That’s exactly what the Saranac Lake softball team did on home turf Wednesday, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to down Plattsburgh 6-5 in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference season finale for both teams.

In a well-played, back-and-forth battle, the Red Storm turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead, then came up with the late heroics in their final at-bat after the Hornets scored twice in the top of the seventh to tie the game 5-5.

Senior Maggie Carpenter slid home with the winning run on a play that could best be described as “wild.” The play seemed to take place in the blink of an eye.

Carpenter led off the bottom of the seventh and made it to first on an infield dribbler. Saranac Lake’s next batter, Maddie Reardon then bunted her way on to first, which moved Carpenter to second base. Maddie Gay was the next batter, and she cracked a shot to centerfield that got Carpenter and Reardon moving.

Caylen Skiff makes a catch in deep rightfield for Saranac Lake to end the top half of the sixth inning and leave two Plattsburgh baserunners stranded Wednesday in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Carpenter rounded third, began heading for home and stopped when it looked like she’d be tagged out at the plate after Hornets’ catcher Alyssa Hemingway grabbed the throw from the outfield. Carpenter headed back to third, and at the same time Reardon was sprinting toward the same base until she noticed her teammate. Reardon stopped, turned and sprinted back toward second. Hemingway fired the ball to third base, Carpenter slid and beat the throw. Plattsburgh’s third baseman Grace McMahon then fired the ball to second in an effort to catch Reardon as she attempted to return to second.

Reardon dived safely back to second, and at the same time, on a heads up play, Carpenter sprinted home and beat a throw for the second time on the same play by scooting past the tag at the plate to end the game.

Although both teams made a few mistakes, there were key hits and impressive plays in the field from both sides, along with solid pitching performances from Saranac Lake’s Katie Gay and Plattsburgh’s Cali Fitzwater. The Red Storm finished with seven hits and the Hornets had three.

Plattsburgh entered the contest with a 10-3 record after beating Beekmantown 5-4 the day before with some late-game heroics. Saranac Lake was 5-9 and coming off a stinging 9-8 extra-inning loss at Northeastern Clinton on Monday.

“They like to do that,” Saranac Lake coach Suzanne Nicholas said of her team’s propensity for dramatics. “That was a huge win. They’re one of the top teams. It doesn’t mean too much for us in terms of standings. It means more to the girls in terms of confidence. They said they had so much fun playing this game tonight. They told me this is the perfect game to win and to go into playoffs. Beating Plattsburgh is huge for Saranac Lake.”

Reardon led the Red Storm with two hits, including a double, and Maddie Gay rapped out two singles. Annabelle Bombard-Schmidt swatted a triple in the win and Marissa Gibbs and Katie Gay each added a single.

Hemingway, Abbie Crahan and Grace McMahon accounted for Plattsburgh’s three hits, each belting a double.

Amya Hurteau scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second to give the Red Storm a 1-0 edge. The Hornets answered with two in the top of the third, and tacked on another run in the fourth to lead 3-1. Saranac Lake then came up big in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four times to go up 5-3.

Saranac Lake then escaped from the top of the sixth with it two-run advantage intact when right fielder Caylen Skiff made a saving catch just in front of the home run fence that stranded two Hornets on base.

The Red Storm was on the verge of victory after Plattsburgh’s first two batters grounded out in the top of the seventh. The next two batters, however got on base, and Hemmingway knocked them home with her game-tying double. Saranac Lake got out off the top of the inning when the Hornets’ next batter grounded out, the game moved to the bottom of the seventh, and the Red Storm made sure they didn’t have to work overtime again.

“I think base running won it for us,” said Gibbs, who had a good day defending in centerfield. “That was a focus in practice yesterday because we were struggling with that, and we were hitting pretty well and we were fielding really well, which we’ve been struggling with also. We had a little bit of doubts just because we knew Plattsburgh was a good team.”

Gibbs added that it was quite an ending to a pretty amazing game.

“It was weird watching our girls run back and forth but it felt good when Maggie went home and was safe. Pretty exciting,” she said.

“It was a great game. I haven’t seen Saranac Lake play this year but I know they’ve been playing a lot of teams tough,” Plattsburgh coach Joe McMahon. “I knew coming up here it would be a tough game, and that’s just what we got. They strung together some hits when they needed them, and they played pretty sound defense.

“They made all the plays they should have and made a couple they don’t normally make,” McMahon added. “That’s what you have to do. They didn’t give us anything for free, so anything we got, we had to earn.”

Katie Gay went the distance in the circle, fanning three and walking no batters to earn the win. Fitzwater also pitched a complete game, striking out five and walking three Red Storm batters.

Both teams now move into their respective Section VII playoff tournaments. In Class C, Saranac Lake is the third seed and hosts Moriah on Friday in a quarterfinal game starting at 4:30 p.m. The Hornets are the second-seed in Class B and host Beekmantown Wednesday, May 29 in a semifinal matchup.