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Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — After giving away a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning, Tioga rallied for two runs in the home half of the frame — with freshmen Emily Luther and McKenzie Williams delivering clutch hits — to pull out a 7-6 win over 10th-seeded Harpursville here Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Section IV, Class C softball playoffs.

“This is a huge win for us, especially after the last few games, where we haven’t had a win or played the way we’re capable,” said Tioga coach Stephanie Hills. “This is big, I think it picks up our morale as a team, knowing we can win these kinds of games.”

Seventh-seeded Tioga made just one error in the first five innings and cut down four Lady Hornet runners on the base paths in the game, but committed four errors in the final two innings.

“We had a couple big errors (in the sixth and seventh innings), but the girls stuck with it, and worked together as a team” said Hills.

“We had some errors in the outfield late in the game that could have cost us … the seventh inning was a little sketchy, but prior to that we played pretty well defensively.

“Our communication was big,” added Hills.. “We’ve been struggling with communicating the last few games, but the girls were able to put it together, and get those big outs when we needed them.”

Harpursville’s lead-off hitter belted a double, but was gunned down at third base for the first out of the game.

The Lady Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a two-out RBI double by Luther.

Harpursville had its first two runners reach base in the second inning, but had its at-bat end on the base paths.

The Lady Hornets got on the board in the top of the third to tie the game at 1-1.

Harpursville scored two more runs in the top of the fourth, but it could have been a bigger rally had it not been for Tioga junior catcher M.J. Thetga gunning down a would-be base-stealer at third base for the second out, and a relay throw from center fielder senior Austyn Vance to 8th-grade shortstop RaeAnne Feeko to Thetga at the plate for the third out.

Tioga took advantage of a Harpursville error and back-to-back RBI singles by seniors Alissa Hine and Molly Bombard to take a 4-3 lead.

The Lady Tigers added to their lead with a two-out RBI single by senior Julia Bellis in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-3.

Harpursville turned a pair of Tioga errors in the top of the fifth inning into two runs to tie the game at 5-5.

Tioga loaded the bases with one out, and without the benefit of a hit, in the bottom of the fifth, but had a runner thrown out at the plate attempting to score on a wild pitch, and had an infield pop fly to end the inning.

Consecutive outfield errors by the Lady Tigers led to a Harpursville run, and a 6-5 lead, in the top of the seventh, but a relay throw from Luther in left field, to Feeko at shortstop to senior Abby Foley at third base resulted in the second out.

Hine then ended the inning with a strikeout.

Thetga led off the bottom of the seventh with a line-drive single off the ribs of the Harpursville pitcher. After a brief stoppage, Luther ripped a triple that skipped past the left fielder to plate courtesy-runner Megan Vance to tie the game at 6-6.

Bellis then reached on a bunt single, but Luther remained at third.

On the next pitch, Williams ended the game with a line-drive RBI single to right field to score Luther.

Throughout the game, Tioga took the extra base, used delayed steals, and aggressively ran the bases.

Hills said that was part of the game plan.

“We’ve been working very hard on our base-running as a whole,” she said. “We need to be more aggressive … from here on out, if we’re not more aggressive on the base paths, we’re not advancing any further.

“We’ve been working hard in practice on situational things,” added Hills. “If teams throw behind us, we’re going to advance ahead — things like that.”

Tioga banged out 13 hits in the win.

“Offensively, our bats started to wake up, and we had some good at-bats up-and-down the line-up,” said Hills.

Bellis stroked three singles, scored one run, and drove in one run to pace Tioga at the plate, while Luther tripled and doubled, scored one run, and knocked in two runs, Feeko singled twice and scored two runs, and Hine singled twice, scored one run, and drove in one run.

Bombard and Williams each singled and drove in one run in the win, while Abby Foley and Thetga each singled, and Austyn Vance and Megan Vance each crossed the plate once.

Hine earned the win for the Lady Tigers, allowing six runs — two earned — on 14 hits, while striking out five and walking none.

Tioga, now 13-5, advances to play at second-seeded Union Springs (14-1) Tuesday in the quarterfinals.


IN PHOTO 1: Tioga’s McKenzie Williams. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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