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IAC SOFTBALL: TIOGA HANDS UNION SPRINGS FIRST LOSS, 5-4, IN SMALL SCHOOL TITLE GAME; SEVENTH TITLE SINCE 2014 (24 PHOTOS) (2024-05-09)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
AURORA, N.Y. — Junior McKenzie Williams lined an RBI double into the left-center field gap to plate sophomore RaeAnne Feeko in the bottom of the seventh inning and lift Tioga to a 5-4 walk-off win over previously-unbeaten Union Springs here Thursday afternoon in the overall IAC Small School championship game on the campus of Wells College.

Tioga and Union Springs have played in the Small School title game in each of the last four years. The Wolves had won two in a row. This is Tioga’s seventh Small School title since 2014.

Tioga coach Heather Klossner said this is a game the girls had circled on their calendars.

“The girls had a goal in mind, the third time is a charm … they were looking for some redemption, especially after the game we had against (Union Springs) earlier this year,” said Klossner, making note Union Springs’ 13-11 regular-season win.

“The girls had a goal, and they met it; that’s always a good thing,” she added.

Junior Erin Luther and Williams both said this was an important game for the Tigers.

“This means a lot for us,” said Luther. “I’m glad we came together and won this one.”

“Winning this game was definitely a big goal of ours, especially after coming here the last two years and losing,” said Williams.

In Tioga’s regular-season loss to Union Springs, Luther walked nine and hit a batter, while the defense committed three key errors. Thursday, Luther issued three walks, and Tioga committed two errors — both leading to runs.

“We learned the first time against them, we can’t give them free bases, and we can’t give them extra outs, and unearned runs,” said Klossner.

“Our goal was to make (Union Springs) earn it,” she added.

Luther agreed her goal was to throw strikes.

“I made sure to stay calm, and not get frustrated,” she said. “This was a big game for us, I just wanted to keep my team in it, and keep them happy.

“There were some good defensive plays today,” she added. “I’m glad they were there to back me up.”

Klossner said Union Springs’ pitcher did a nice job against the Tigers.

“I’ve been happy with our batting order from top to bottom,” she said. “The 1, 2, and 3 hitters are up there for a reason, we want them to see the most at-bats. After them, everybody has been able to fill in … it’s worked, we’ve been able to produce runs.

“We didn’t hit the ball as hard tonight as we have, even the first time we saw (Union Springs), I think we hit the ball harder, but we put it together as a team, and that’s what matters,” Klossner added.

The Wolves took the early lead with a lead-off double, and a two-out single to take a 1-0. They left the bases loaded when shortstop Feeko gunned down a runner at first for the third out.

The Tigers answered in the bottom of the first inning. Feeko led off with a single to right field, and freshman Jade Keaty slapped a single off the glove of the U.S. third baseman. After a walk to Williams that loaded the bases, Shiner chopped a high bouncer off home plate, and Feeko beat the throw home to tie the game at 1-1.

With two outs, senior Megan Vance sliced a two-run single into right field to make it 3-1.

Union Springs closed the gap to 3-2 with an unearned run in the top of the third, and the pitchers dominated until the bottom of the fifth inning when Feeko slammed a triple into the gap, and scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2.

The Wolves manufactured runs in the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at 4-4, setting the stage for the walk-off win.

With one out, Feeko was hit by a pitch, and Keaty slapped a looping single into left field to put runners on first and second.

Williams fouled off a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch she saw, then fouled off two more pitches, before delivering the game-winner.

“We had very good speed on the bases, and I have a lot of faith in the hitters coming up after (McKenzie),” said Klossner.

Williams was looking to make contact after failing to get the bunt down.

“At first (coach Klossner) had me bunting, and I was like ‘OK, whatever you need me to do.,’” said Williams. “Then I couldn’t get the bunt down … I was just looking to make contact, putting it in play felt really good.

“I saw it in the air, and I was just hoping it wouldn’t get caught,” said a laughing Williams.

Luther earned the win for the Tigers, allowing four runs — two earned — on five hits, while striking out six and walking three in seven innings.

Feeko tripled and singled, and scored three runs, and Keaty singled twice and scored two runs to pace Tioga’s nine-hit attack, while sophomore Emily Shiner singled twice, and drove in one run, and Williams doubled, scored one run, and had one RBI.

Vance singled and drove in two runs in the win, and Luther added a single.

Tioga, now 15-2, returns to action Monday at Athens in the regular-season finale.

The brackets for the upcoming Section IV, Class C softball playoffs will be released Monday.

Luther and Williams are looking forward to the postseason.

“I’m hoping we play the way we did tonight — good defense, good defense, and good hitting,” said Luther.

“I’m hoping we’ll continue to work as a team, and that we all play good softball,” said Williams.

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


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