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Valley Sports Report
ELMIRA HEIGHTS - Big games rarely live up to the hype, but the battle of state-ranked teams here Thursday afternoon did just that, and more.

Senior Wendi Hammond pitched a complete-game gem, and senior Kari VanAllen pitched in with her bat and glove to lead Waverly, ranked second in Class B, to a 3-0 win over Class C's top-ranked Thomas A. Edison in IAC softball action at the Cohen Elementary School field.

The game was a match-up of not only state-ranked teams, but IAC divisional leaders and two of the premier pitchers in Section IV in Hammond and Edison's Bella Willsey.

"We were really amped up," said Hammond. "This is the game that we've been looking forward to all year. Today was a big day and we were ready for it. We came prepared. The whole team did.

"I don't have the words to describe today," added Hammond. "I think I've lost every single game I've played against (Edison), so to come out on top in my senior year is great.

"It's feels great to go out on top against (Edison) in our senior year," said VanAllen.

"This is my third year, and we brought most of this group up as freshmen," said Waverly coach Brian Wendela. "We've been on the other side in these games against Edison every time.

"We've had some good games with them, but this is a really big win for us," he added.

Wendela said it was a very good all-around team effort, but singled out the play of a trio of players.

"Wendi Hammond, Kari VanAllen, and Morgan Lee had awesome games today."

Hammond tossed a three-hitter wth 13 strikeouts and no walks. She threw just 72 pitches, and out-dueled Bella Willsey, who gave up three runs - including two unearned runs in the top of he seventh inning - on five hits, while striking out 10 and walking three.

"I was feeling good today," said Hammond. "I knew I had to be prepared for this game."

"She text me earlier, and I knew there was a little extra fire in her today," said Wendela. "Every time out, she's just getting stronger, and seems to have better velocity, too."

After walking Hammond to lead off the game, Willsey struck out four of the next five batters she faced. With two outs in the second inning, junior Morgan Lee fouled off three straight pitches en route to a nine-pitch walk.

"What a great at-bat against a very good pitcher," said Wendela.

"Morgan is tough," he added. "She plays travel softball, so she's mentally tough; and she knows the game."

VanAllen then drove a 1-2 pitch over the right fielder's head to score Lee and give Waverly a 1-0 lead.

"I knew I hit it well," said VanAllen.

"That was a big hit," said Wendela. "It got us on the board first, and that's always important in games like these.

"The last four or five games, Kari has been a major part of what we do," noted Wendela. "She's been making things happen at the bottom of the line-up to bring the top back around.

"She's stepping up in her senior year, and good things are happening," he said.

Both pitchers were nearly unhittable for the remainder of the game, but when they did give up hits, their defenses bailed them out.

Riley Vincent beat out a bunt for a single (Edison's first hit) to lead off the fourth, but moments later sophomore Hali Jenner fielded a bunt attempt on the fly and turned it into a double play with a strong throw to junior Paige Lewis at first base.

With a runner on second in the fifth inning, VanAllen hauled in a hard-hit shot into left center-field for the third out.

"I was scared when I saw it coming my way," laughed VanAllen. "No, I was pretty confident. I knew I had it."

Jenner and junior Riley Hall started off the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles to put runners on first and third, but Willsey registered three straight strikeouts to escape the jam unscathed.

Edison's best opportunity to score came in the home half of the sixth. Trailing 1-0, Ryleigh Carson was hit by a Hammond pitch to lead off the inning. With one out, Vincent singled to right field to put runners on first and second.

Two pitches later, a Hammond fastball hit her catcher (Hall) on the throwing hand and rolled into foul territory up the first-base line. Hammond alertly chased the ball down, while Hall was on the ground at home plate, and the Edison base runners hesitated on the base paths.

Once the Spartan runners took off, Hammond gunned down Carson at third base for the second out.

"I saw it hit (Riley's) hand, and I knew right away it wasn't a foul ball.

"Once I got the ball, I heard people yelling "˜three,' so I knew I had to go there to get the lead runner," said Hammond. "It changed the whole game."

Hammond's next pitch was a swinging strike-three to end the inning.

Any chances of an Edison comeback in the home half of the seventh were thwarted quickly when VanAllen chased down a shot into the left-center field gap and made a lunging catch for the first out on the first pitch of the inning.

Willsey sent Hammond's second pitch screaming back up the middle, but Hammond snared it for the second out.

"We have a pretty good defense, and Wendi (Hammond) always does her thing," said VanAllen.

Hammond did her thing on the final batter, registering a strikeout to end the game.

Jenner doubled and singled, and VanAllen doubled, scored one run, and drove in one run to pace Waverly's five-hit attack, while Lewis and Hall each singled, and Morgan Lee scored a pair of runs.

Edison, which scored 164 runs in its 9-0 start, managed just three singles off Hammond - two by Vincent and one by Christian Willsey.

Waverly, now 13-1, is off until Friday when it travels to Newark Valley.


IN PHOTO 1: Waverly's Kari VanAllen. ... PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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