COBLESKILL, N.Y. – The SUNYIT Softball Team's wild run to the NEAC Finals ended on Sunday, as the Penn State Berks Nittany Lions took home their second straight championship with a 9-0 victory. The Nittany Lions, who were the #1 seed from the South Division and a prohibitive favorite to win after finishing the season with a NEAC-best conference record of 18-2, took advantage of a SUNYIT team that, understandably, was running on fumes after already playing 4 games in a span of 48 hours.
While the Wildcats will not hoist the elusive NEAC Champion's trophy this year, their run to even get to the final game was an incredible feat. The Wildcat's lost their first game of the tournament, on Friday, plunging them into the loser's bracket and putting them in a win-or-go-home situation for the rest of the weekend. The team responded with a pair of blowout victories on Saturday, which set up the seemingly-inevitable semifinal matchup with rival Keuka.
The Storm, who lost on Sunday morning to eventual champion Penn State-Berks, scored three runs in the top of the 6th inning to erase a 2-1 SUNYIT lead, then added another run in the top of the 7th to take a 5-2 lead.
But this year's Wildcat team is used to being in tight spots, and never blinked as Jessica Patterelli (Canastota, N.Y. / Canastota) led off the inning with a solo home run to spark the Wildcats. Danielle Witchley (New Hartford, N.Y. / New Hartford) then singled, as did Erika Charbonneau (Boonville, N.Y. / Adirondack), and Abby Black (Turin, N.Y. / South Lewis) took advantage of a Keuka error to load the bases.
Storm pitcher Liz Warren then induced a pop up before getting stung with another error, this one to the outfield as a would-be sac fly from Leah Segerlin (Webster, N.Y. / Webster Schroeder) was dropped, allowing Witchley to score and leaving the bases loaded.
With one out and down 5-4, Fallon Reinold (Holland Patent, N.Y. / Holland Patent) came through with a single to tie the game. Reinold started the game on the mound, going three innings and giving up just 1 run before getting replaced by Patterelli.
Finally, still with only one out, 2-hitter Kiersten Albertson (Kirkville, N.Y. / East Syracuse Minoa) delivered the death blow, smacking a walk-off single to give SUNYIT a miraculous 6-5 victory.
Bridget Ashmore (New Hartford, N.Y. / New Hartford), who has been outstanding in relief all year for the Wildcats with a 2.17 ERA in 15 appearances, picked up the win after coming on in the top of the 7th with 2 on and 2 out, and inducing a line-out back to herself from 1st Team All-Conference Storm hitter Jill Hart.
Patterelli finished the game 3-for-3 with an RBI, while Krista Pristera (New Hartford, N.Y. / New Hartford) also came up big with a 2-run homer to give SUNYIT its first lead in the bottom of the 4th, and finished the game 1-for-3 with 2 RBI's.
The pair, who bat in the 3- and 4-spots for SUNYIT, were fabulous for the Wildcats in the tournament. Through the first 4 games (including the Keuka game), they finished a video-game-esque 17-for-26, with 4 home runs and 16 RBI. Pristera, who battled through an injury to her right eye suffered during warm-ups of a game earlier in the week which caused a great deal of swelling and a decidedly fierce-looking black eye, was 8-14 with a homer and 7 RBI's during the stretch.
Patterelli was quite simply on another level. The junior, who was recently described by her coach, Jessica Skelton, as "the most intimidating hitter we've ever had" went 9-for-12 with 3 homers and 9 RBI over the same stretch, homering in 3-straight games.
SUNYIT's wild ride, as often happens, would come to an end later in the afternoon not with a bang, but a clatter. The powerful Nittany Lion team jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning behind a pair of doubles from Julia Moscato and Chelsea Bright.
It was more than enough, as NEAC South Pitcher of the Year Casey Hafer put an end to the Wildcat offensive run with a dominant performance, throwing a 1-out shutout while inducing 8 groundballs and striking out 4. Hafer, who recorded all three wins for the Nittany Lions on the tournament, finished with a 1.06 ERA on the weekend and was named the NEAC Tournament MVP.
SUNYIT's run to the final game (technically, had SUNYIT won the game they would have had to beat the Nittany Lions again as Berks was so-far undefeated in the double-elimination tournament) is its first since 2012. The team finishes 2014 with a 19-16 overall record, and a 14-4 NEAC record.