One up, one down
Lady Eagles defeat Franklinville in title game
By ANDREW DAVID KUCZKOWSKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
Ally Haskell and the Franklinville Lady Panthers have been the Achilles heel for the North Collins Lady Eagles in the past. Last year in the semifinal matchup, Haskell shutout the Lady Eagles, 2-0, to move on and later win the Section VI Class D championship. This year, Haskell was in the circle in both regular season wins against North Collins — the first was 1-0 and the second was 2-0 in nine innings.
However, at Promenschenkel Stadium, in the 2017 Section VI Class D title matchup between the No. 1 Lady Panthers and the No. 3 Lady Eagles, North Collins turned the game around in its final outs against the dominant Haskell to get the 2-1 win and its first ever sectional title.
Going into the top of the seventh, Haskell got her team on the board with a two-out RBI single. All the momentum was on the Lady Panthers’ side as the low-scoring game looked to be in the hands of Haskell.
North Collins coach Jan Warren prepared for the final three outs like any other inning for his team, as he did not stress the coming at-bats.
“We have this rule on our team: we don’t get together between innings,” Warren said. “We feel it’s bad ju-ju, so we don’t. I have always coached like that and my teams have never gotten together. We do a cheer at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game and none in between. … I am superstitious.”
Unlike the previous six innings, the Lady Eagles’ bats were driving the pitches and being selective at the plate.
North Collins’ Rebecca Holmes got it started with a one-out single, which was matched by Angela Filkov’s single. Morgan Mathis drew a walk and Alexa English came to the plate with the bases loaded.
With the most pressure on her at bat, she came through in the clutch and smacked a liner to leftfield. Initially, it was ruled an inside-the-park grand slam, but it was recalled in a controversial ground-rule double only scoring two. The next two batters were out and the Lady Eagles went into the bottom of the seventh with the 2-1 lead.
See LADY EAGLES, On Page B2
The Lady Eagles flipped the script of the possible 1-0 defeat by forcing it on the Franklinville batters.
“I really think we knew we could do it because every game we played them it was getting closer and closer,” Holmes said.
The momentum switch put North Collins pitcher, Rebecca Cyrek, in the circle with pressure to close the door. It was three batters up and three batters down that finished the seventh inning as North Collins defeated Franklinville, 2-1.
“It was the most nerve-racking game I’ve ever been in for sure,” Cyrek said, “but I just had to calm down and trust my defense.”
The win was the Lady Eagles’ first-ever blue patch and they now advance to the Far West Regional as the Section VI representative and will face the Section V champions, Elba, at Promenschenkel Stadium with the start time to be announced.
“I feel awesome. They made a commitment last year and came in the gym the first day of spring until now and are working hard and doing what’s right,” Warren said. “Our defense has been saving us all year long and Rebecca (Cyrek) has been keeping batters off balance.”
Cyrek was the winning pitcher on the day; she went the distance with eight strikeouts, one walk and allowed four hits.
Haskell was given the loss in the circle, pitching seven innings with 12 strikeouts and six hits allowed.
The seventh inning for Haskell was uncommon for the ace pitcher that is akin to getting no-hitters.
“Ally has been great for us all year and they put the bat on the ball,” Franklinville coach Allan Dunlap said. “Sometimes, teams do that against us, against Ally. Sometimes it hurts us when they do it back-to-back in an inning. They had a couple of hits and put the ball in play.”
The game-winning hit was memorable for the North Collins’ junior. English admitted this was her biggest hit she’s ever gotten and it couldn’t have been in a more important at bat.
“Yeah, definitely, for sure,” English confirmed, “but I did it for them. So, I am proud.”
The win is something that Warren noted was a total-team effort.
“Every player on the team has contributed today,” he said, “and I’m proud of everyone of them. Every game it’s a different two or three players that make the difference.”