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Valley Sports Report
SOUTHPORT, N.Y. — Notre Dame scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning, and never trailed, fending off Tioga in a 9-5 win here Wednesday afternoon in the semifinals of the Section IV, Class C softball playoffs.

“Those first-inning jitters and mistakes, they’ve hurt us all season,” said Klossner.

“We made some errors later in the game, and you just can’t do that against a good team like Notre Dame,” noted Klossner. “Give credit where credit is due, Notre Dame is a very good team. You can’t give them extra outs.”

The Lady Crusaders came out swinging against Tioga ace senior Kindra Wessels.

Ava Mustico led off the bottom of the first with a single to right field. She took off for second when the ball was misplayed, and collided with the shortstop at the bag, causing the umpire to signal “obstruction.”  However, Mustico took off for third base, and was gunned down.

After a lengthy discussion, the call stood, with the umpire explaining that once the runner left second base — the site of the obstruction — that she was no longer protected by the call.

The call did not deter the Notre Dame offense.

After Payton Miller reached on an error, Olivia Switzer slammed an RBI double into the left-center field gap for the game’s first run.

On the next pitch, Lawson Bigelow launched a two-run home run well over the “200” marker on the fence in left-center field to make it 3-0.

Wessels settled in and matched zeroes with Notre Dame’s ace, Switzer, through four innings.

In the top of the fifth inning, Austyn Vance poked a single into right field, and Alissa Hine followed with a line-drive double into right-center field to put Tioga runners on second third.

At this point, it was the Notre Dame defense’s time to take a break.

Vance scampered home on a passed ball, and moments later, Hine scored on an errant pick-off throw to third base to trim the deficit to 4-2.

Notre Dame responded immediately, again using the long ball.

Madison Gleason led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to center field, and Ava Mustico followed by slamming a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence to make it 6-2.

The Lady Tigers kept the pressure on, scoring two more runs in the top of the sixth inning.

Olivia Aires worked a walk, and Abby Foley beat out an infield single to open the inning. Wessels hit a hard grounder up the middle for an RBI single. Foley took a hard turn at third base, and Notre Dame attempted to throw behind her, but the throw sailed out of play, allowing Foley to score and Wessels to take third.

Vance then looped a ball into short right field, but Gleason made a diving catch to save a run, and Switzer then registered a strikeout to strand Wessels at third, and preserve a 6-4 lead for the Lady Crusaders.

Notre Dame responded with three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, thanks in large part to a trio of costly Tioga errors.

Elle Mustico walked to lead off the frame, and Izzy Griffin and Ana Milazzo each laid down sacrifice bunts that were thrown out of play, giving Notre Dame a 7-4 lead, and runners on first and third. A third error made it 8-4.

“We were there, we had it covered,” said Klossner. “We just didn’t finish the plays.”

With two outs, Miller doubled to the wall in left field to drive in Notre Dame’s final run of the game.

Tioga continued to battle, however.

With two outs, Gabby Foley hit a bloop double into short left field, and scored on a RBI groundball single up the middle by Ayres.

Switzer then induced a grounder to Miller at first base for the final out.

“In the last couple innings, we said we weren’t going down without a fight,” said Klossner. “We hung in there, and made a fight of it.”

Gabby Foley and Hine each doubled and scored one run to pace the Lady Tigers at the plate, while Ayres singled, scored one run, and drove in one run, Abby Foley and Vance each singled and scored one run, Wessels singled and drove in one run, and Mykenzie Thetga added a single.

Wessels was tagged with the loss, allowing nine runs — four earned — on seven hits, while striking out four and walking four.

The Lady Tigers finish the season with a 12-5 record, and have just three seniors — Ayres, Wessels, and Mackenzie Luther.

“We lose two good starters, and a solid sub,” said Klossner. “They are going to be hard to replace, and they’re going be missed.

“They are hard workers, and love the game,” noted Klossner. “I definitely did not feel any of that senior-itis this year.

“They are competitors. They are going to go on to college and do great things athletically,” she added. “I’m excited to see what they can do.

Klossner is excited about what the Lady Tigers bring back in 2022.

“We have a ton coming back,” she said. “With a lot of junior coming back, we have a lot of experience returning. Most of those juniors have been with me since they were freshmen.

“These girls have a lot of softball knowledge.

“The girls coming up from JVs are going to have to work hard to fill spots because there are only going to be a few,” noted Klossner. “We definitely have some girls coming up who can fill spots and help the team.

“I’m looking forward to next year,” added Klossner.


IN PHOTO 1: Tioga’s Olivia Ayres. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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