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IAC SOFTBALL: ERRORS COSTLY IN TIOGA TITLE GAME LOSS (2021-06-05)

BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
SOUTHPORT — Errors proved costly for Tioga as it fell to Elmira Notre Dame, 6-1, in the IAC championship game here Saturday.

The Tigers committed a half-dozen miscues in the loss, but hung with ND most of the way.

Playing on an all-grass field presented a challenge for Tioga, especially after winning the IAC Small School championship on the turf at Wells College two days earlier.

"We practiced on grass yesterday, trying to get a feel for it. Going from turf to grass is night and day," Tioga coach Heather Klossner said. "I tried to get them to understand you don't need to play as deep, you need to charge the ball. It's a home field advantage and good for them, but we made some mistakes that are unacceptable and I talked to the girls about being mentally tougher."

Even though Tioga was down, 5-1, at the time, the visitors had an opportunity to jump back in the game in the top of the sixth inning.

A sharp Kindra Wessels single up the middle, followed by a Mykenzie Thetga base hit and an Austyn Vance walk loaded the bases, only to watch the Crusaders' Olivia Switzer strike out the next three batters to maintain the five-run cushion.

Notre Dame picked up it first two runs with the help of two Tioga errors in the first. Ava Mustico singled and Switzer reached on an error with one away. With two down, a second Tiger miscue allowed Mustico and courtesy runner Fargo to score for a 2-0 advantage.

Tioga would find its way onto the scoreboard in the third on Olivia Ayres' one-out single and Wessels' two-out RBI single.

It remained a tight contest until the fourth, when a Griffin single to center field and a Gleason single to right plated another run, and an error off the bat of Mustico made it 4-1.

Lauren Bigelow crushed a 250-foot home run over the left center field fence in the fifth to give the Crusaders a 5-1 cushion.

The Tigers looked like they might trim the gap in the sixth when they loaded the bases with no outs, but Switzer stepped up her game in the circle, striking out the final three batters to snuff out the threat.

"We've gotten into situations where you get a girl on third with two outs instead of one and you can make something happen, maybe with one out vs. two, and we just couldn't make it happen, couldn't get a bat on the ball with bases loaded, but we still needed to do more," Klossner said.

"We've been behind on teams and we've worked all year not hanging our heads, but it's really hard to close that gap on a really good team," Klossner said.

Mustico's single to left with two down in the bottom of the inning, followed by an error off the bat of Payton Miller made it a 6-1 score.

Switzer retired the side in the seventh on a fly ball to left and two ground outs to end the game.

The Tioga offense had a handful of opportunities to score more runs during the game, but wasn't able to take advantage of those situations.

Abby Foley laid down a successful bunt single with one away in the first, but couldn't advance.

Austyn Vance's lead-off fly ball to right in the second was dropped, putting her on third, but Switzer retired the side.

Alissa Hine smacked a one-out double to center in the fourth and advanced to third on a Julia Bellis ground out, but Switzer fanned the next batter to strand Hine.

Tioga managed six hits in the game with Wessels going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Ayres contributed a hit and a run, and Foley, Hine and Thetga added one hit apiece.

The Crusaders recorded just two earned runs off Wessels, who struck out four, scattered seven hits and didn't issue a single walk.

Switzer fanned 10 batters and issued one base on balls.

"We talked about we put it in the past," Klossner said. "It is what it is. We move on to sectionals. We could have given them a better game. I'm sure of that."

Tioga (11-4) now awaits the Section IV Class C seeds.

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IN PHOTO 1: Tioga's Mykenzie Thetga. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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