Pitcher Jill Murray’s appearing as if she’s in a bad mood could spell good things for the Eden softball team.
“Jill doesn’t speak during game days,” said her coach Marisa Fallacaro. “She looks like she’s in a bad mood, but she’s so focused on the game. She just knows her job. She’s the most competitive kid I’ve ever coached. This kid is just dominating, and the team behind her knows that. They know she won’t talk a lot, she never cracks a smile.”
There was little reaction from Murray during the regular season after she struck out 23 batters against Cleveland Hill, and she barely reacted after hitting three home runs while driving in eight runs against Alden.
But chances are excellent the sophomore hurler will flash that winning smile if she can lead the Raiders to the Class B title at Saturday’s New York State Softball Championships in Glens Falls.
The Raiders, along with Clarence in Class AA and Williamsville South in Class A, will represent Section VI in semifinal and final games being played at Moreau Rec Park.
Eden has never played in the state final four. They will meet Center Moriches of Long Island’s Section XI in the semifinals and possibly meet the No. 1-ranked team in the state, Solvay of Section III, if they win their semi. Murray will bring an 8-0 record into the contest. She has faced 239 batters this season and struck out 120. She’s walked just four in 58 innings pitched. The Raiders have another go-to pitcher in junior Carly Nasca (8-1). She has 80 strikeouts in 48 innings with just seven walks.
The pair can also put up numbers at the plate as Nasca is batting .453 while Murray’s at .474. Other offensive weapons are shortstop Jenny Morrow, a .404 slap hitter with top speed. Sophomore third baseman Haley Kabie leads the team with a .510 average, 26 RBIs and four home runs.
This will be Clarence’s sixth trip to the final four since 2000. They bring a 20-1 record and a 16-game winning streak into the game against East Meadow of Section VIII.
Starting pitcher Katrina Buczkowski has a 41-4 record on the mound the past two seasons. Her postseason includes a perfect game in last week’s Far West Regional against Brockport. Clarence coach Todd Banaszak said she could pitch both games Saturday.
Clarence was state runner-up in 2004 and won it all in 2012.
“We’ve had outstanding pitching every year we’ve been in it, and Katrina is right there,” said Banaszak.
Molly McCarthy was on the mound in 2000, Stephanie Wydra in 2004, Jennifer Sansone in 2008 and 2010 and Katie Bull in 2012.
Buczkowski and Moriah Harris were on that state championship team in 2012. Harris is batting .400 when opponents pitch to her. She has been walked 21 times, 16 intentionally. Gabbie Keller’s team-leading .467 average includes 38 hits.
Banaszak said he knows East Meadow has a good left-handed pitcher and a couple of players who have signed with NCAA Division II schools. East Meadow lost in last year’s state final to Ciecro-North Syracuse.
Williamsville South has a history of success playing this deep into the season with four state championships, the last coming in 2006. But this is all new for the 15 players and third-year head coach Julie Murphy.
The Billies will look to add to their resume with a lineup of seven seniors as they take on Troy of the Albany area in the semifinals.
The Billies haven’t lost a game since May 4 to Frontier and bring a 16-game winning streak into the contest. Senior pitcher Samantha Moon (21-0) will get the start. Murphy’s scouting report on Troy is they have a solid pitcher and a lineup full of tough outs. She likes the way her team is playing but cautioned them that everyone in the tournament is also playing well. It’s an experienced lineup with leadoff batter Emily Martin, catcher Stephanie Tirone and third baseman Brianna Clark.
“My theory is this is a new season again and we’re 0-0. We’d like to leave 2-0. We have to take care of business,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have this group. ... I get emotional about it because you can tell they just care so much.”