ARDSLEY — There’s a lot you can say about Thursday’s Class B semifinal between Valhalla and Ardsley, but the one thing we can all agree on is that it was an incredible game. Ardsley coach Noreen Degnan said she did her homework on the Vikings, and it showed, but credit Valhalla for showing all heart for 21 outs.
It was close the last time these two met, so Valhalla’s 8-5 win doesn’t come as a massive shocker. The fact that the Vikings were down by five and then scored eight unanswered runs may be a shocker, but a good game between these two isn’t.
Valhalla simply never gave up. I know that’s cliché, but there’s really no other way to describe it. The Vikings could’ve easily — very, very easily — folded up shop after Ardsley throat-punched them for five runs in the first, but they came back and scored three of their own.
Ardsley had plenty of opportunities — loading the bases three times — and didn’t execute, and there’s really no other way to describe that. Valhalla didn’t overpower Ardsley and the Panthers weren’t outmatched; the Vikings made the plays they needed to in order to win and the Panthers didn’t, period.
The fourth inning was a big turning point, in my opinion. Ardsley had a runner on second with no outs and Valhalla pulls a 2-3-6 double play (below) out of its hat. The Panthers were able to load the bases (which, in turn, means they would’ve scored at least one run and would’ve had another out to play with), but couldn’t bring anyone in.
As Valhalla coach John Hayes said, Bella Riguzzi‘s solo homer in the fifth (pictured at beginning) was the momentum shift. It had been rising in Valhalla’s favor since the first inning, and once Riguzzi crossed home plate, the tides officially turned in the Vikings’ favor.
I thought Ardsley had Valhalla after that first half inning. Scoring five runs is such a shot of adrenaline for your team and such a blow to your opponent that you’d be crazy not to think Ardsley wasn’t going to win at that point. For me, Valhalla’s magic number was 2: If it could get at least two runs in the bottom half, it would be in good shape; anything less, it would be in trouble. If the Vikings got three, they’re in better shape; with four, they’re in great shape; with five, it’s essentially a new ballgame; and anything six or more obviously puts the game in their favor.
I’ve conducted a lot of interviews through the years and one of the most popular phrases you’ll hear is something along the lines of, “We weren’t going to give up.” Interviewing Valhalla players Riguzzi and winning pitcher Sydni Holtz — both of whom used the term to some degree — there was something different about both of them. The words felt real. The girls were stoic, but not cocky, in their words. You saw in their faces — not their words — that the team wasn’t going to give up in this game, and that’s a massive credit to them.
Outside of poor run production after the first inning, there really isn’t much you can knock Ardsley for. The coach was prepared, the girls were every bit as good as their opponents, they were loud all game (I don’t know who didn’t hear Marie McNerney) and the fans (much like Valhalla’s) came in droves. Thursday featured a great softball game between two talented teams; Valhalla was just the better one.
Here are the other results from around the section. Brewster-Lakeland was postponed due to poor playing conditions and will be played Friday at noon (at Brewster). My finals predictions and analysis post will be up after the Brewster-Lakeland game, and I’ll ask Debbie to get hers up tomorrow evening so you can read them both before a LONG day of softball Saturday.
Clarkstown South 5, Ketcham 0: In a Section 1 Class AA semifinal game at No. 1 Clarkstown South, Briana Keaveney struck out 11. Gabby Palumbo and Karly Fishkin each drove in two runs and Sara Herskowitz homered. The Vikings will play No. 2 North Rockland in the final Saturday at North Rockland at noon.
North Rockland 8, Suffern 1: In a Section 1 Class AA semifinal game at No. 2 North Rockland, Kayla McDermott fanned nine to pick up her 18th win of the season. Amanda Schweitzer drove in two runs. Sidney Padilla scored on a passed ball for the Mounties. The Red Raiders will play top-seeded Clarsktown South in the final Saturday at North Rockland at noon.
Pearl River 4, Yorktown 0: In a Section 1 Class A semifinal game at No. 2 Pearl River, Erin Woods had a two-run single. Jules Madigan and Julie Marsico added an RBI double and sacrifice fly, respectively. The Pirates will play the winner of top-seeded Brewster and No. 4 Lakeland Saturday at North Rockland at 3 p.m.
Rye Neck 12, North Salem 1: In a Section 1 Class B semifinal game at No. 2 Rye Neck, Diana King struck out 14 and went 2 for 2 with an RBI. Nicole Miller drove in four runs, highlighted by a three-run triple. Olivia Dworacyzk had an RBI triple for the Tigers. The Panthers will play top-seeded Valhalla in the final Saturday at North Rockland at 9 a.m.