BY TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
B’HAMTON — In each of the last two years, Susquehanna Valley vanquished Waverly in the semifinals in excruciating fashion — extra-inning walk-off wins — on its way to back-to-back Section IV, Class B titles.
On Saturday, senior Wendi Hammond led Waverly to a come-from-behind, 2-1, win over Susquehanna Valley, and the program’s first-ever Section IV, Class B title.
“It’s incredible,” said Waverly coach Brian Wendela. “The last two seasons ended with such tough losses to Susquehanna Valley. To beat them for the program’s first Section IV title is that much sweeter.”
“It feels amazing, I can’t even describe it, especially considering the last two years they’ve beat us on walk-offs,” said Hammond, who also played on Waverly’s soccer teams (along with senior Kari VanAllen) that lost three consecutive Section IV title games to Chenango Forks.
“Kari (VanAllen) and I were joking about always getting red ribbons (second place) for soccer. It feels good to finally get the blue ones,” she added.
“It feels great, the third time was a charm,” said junior Riley Hall, a three-year starter who delivered the eventual game-winning hit in the sixth inning. “To have the chance to come here and play (SV) again, and beat them is unimaginable.”
Hammond and SV junior Alex Deeter matched zeroes through 3 1/2 innings until the Lady Sabers scratched out a run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Lady Wolverines had just one hit off Deeter through five innings — a one-out single in the fourth inning by junior Paige Lewis, but Hammond changed the complexion of the game with one mighty swing leading off the top of the sixth.
Facing a 3-2 count, Hammond slammed her 13th home run of the season, a line shot over the left-center field fence to tie the game at 1-1.
“She threw a lot of change-up in my first few at-bats, so I knew I had to adjust,” said Hammond. “I was sitting on a change-up, and that’s what she threw me.
“I knew it was out when I hit it,” she added with a smile.
“She has had a knack for coming up big in those situations, not just this year, but during her entire career,” said Wendela. “I wasn’t a bit surprised she hit that home run.”
Sophomore Hali Jenner kept things going with a double into left-center field, and Hall delivered an RBI single to left field to give the Lady Wolverines a 2-1 lead.
“I was looking for a fastball, and she threw me a change-up,” said Hall. “It was pretty sweet, and I couldn’t lay off it.”
“Hali (Jenner) is just starting to want to be in those types of big situations, and Riley (Hall) has always wanted to be in them” said Wendela. “They both came up big for us.”
“Hali and Riley had huge hits, I don’t think they realized how big those hits were,” said Hammond.
Waverly missed out on an opportunity to add to the lead when junior Megan Lee, running for Hall, was cut down at the plate on a squeeze attempt.
Hammond pitched around a two-out single in the home half of the sixth inning, and Deeter retired Waverly in order in the top of the seventh.
With history against Waverly (remember the two walk-off SV wins the last two years), Wendela brought the team together heading out to the field for the bottom of the seventh inning.
“The last two years, (SV) has won in their last at-bat, and both times they put their lead-off runner on base,” said Wendela. “I told the girls before, we needed to get the first girl out.
“Wendi said ‘I got this. Now, can we get going,” laughed Wendela. “She wanted to throw her warm-up pitches and get it over with.”
“I knew I had to beat them,” said Hammond. “I knew I had to take it one batter at a time.”
“Striking out the first batter helped a lot,” said Hall.
Hammond finished off the game in style, striking out the side in order to send the Waverly girls into a wild celebration at home plate.
“Wendi is a one-woman wrecking crew, but it takes a team effort to beat a team like Susquehanna Valley, and we played great as a team today,” said Wendela.
Hammond allowed one run on three hits, while striking out 13 and walking one in seven innings. She now has 253 strikeouts and has allowed just 11 walks and 42 hits in 117 2/3 innings this season.
“Wendi threw 127 pitches (Friday), so for her to come out here less than 24 hours later, and throw the ball the way she did is simply amazing,” said Wendela.
“It’s a testament to the time and effort she puts into the game, and her conditioning” he added.
“We didn’t get some calls I thought we could have gotten, but Wendi did a great job handling it,” said Hall. “We needed to keep them off balance, and we did a good job of doing that.”
Waverly, now 18-2, will play the Section III champ — the winner of Monday’s game between Oneida and Adirondack — Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Carrier Park in East Syracuse.
(CLICK HERE to see 16 more photos.)
IN PHOTO 1: Waverly’s Wendi Hammond circles the bases after her game-tying home run.