SOUTH GLENS FALLS – The future seems bright for the Clarence softball team, but that was of little consolation to the Red Devils here in Moreau Recreation Park on Saturday morning.
Clarence had its chances to play for a title, but for whatever reason – maybe it was the moment, the craftiness of East Meadow senior pitcher Kerri Shapiro, the early 9 a.m. start time or all of the above – failed to come up with the big hit when it mattered most during a 3-0 loss to the Jets.
The loss ended the Red Devils’ 16-game winning streak as the Section VI champions ended their season 20-2.
Not bad considering they start three sophomores and two freshmen, but youth and the three seniors on Clarence – including star pitcher Katrina Buczkowski – wanted to be served Saturday. So, tears of disappointment flowed profusely when it was over.
“It’s really upsetting to be so close,” said sophomore Gabby Keller, who went 2 for 4. “We had chances. We just missed. I just don’t think we were there today.”
East Meadow later beat III-Liverpool for the title, 3-1. That could have very easily been the Red Devils, except they stranded 10 runners, including eight over the final four innings. After falling behind 3-0 in the visiting half of the fourth, Clarence came right back and loaded the bases on a leadoff walk by Moriah Harris, an error on Buczkowski’s grounder and single by Hannah Marlowe. Shapiro bore down to strikeout two of the next three hitters with a foul pop out to first sandwiched between the whiffs. Shapiro finished with 10 strikeouts.
“I thought we were as good as East Meadow, but I felt we didn’t play as sharp as we needed to,” Clarence coach Todd Banaszak said. “You’ve got to come up with a hit there. That’s the ball game.”
Clarence got its first two hitters aboard to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but Shapiro struck out the next hitter before enduring two fly outs to end it. Shapiro scattered five hits, walked two and hit a batter.
Buczkowski, who pitched a perfect game in the Far West Regional win over Brockport last week, battled through some wildness early before EM scored three on four hits and two walks in the fourth inning. Allison Clarke scored what proved to be the winning run on a passed ball from third. Ashley Smith’s line drive hit drove in two more runs. “I couldn’t find the zone so well. I had a couple mechanical things that were off,” said Buczkowski, who yielded five hits, struck out 11 and walked two.
While Buczkowski, Moriah Harris and Corrie Colf will graduate, Clarence will have six starters back from this year’s team -- including Keller. “Those kids who are coming back should use this defeat to keep themselves hungry” during the offseason, Banaszak said.