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By Andy Jacobs
It sure was an up-and-down day for the Fox Lane softball team at the Hendrick Hudson Blue White Softball Tournament.
Just a little while after trouncing Putnam Valley in the opening round on Saturday, the Foxes wound up suffering a similar fate as the Tigers when they met the host Sailors in the tourney final at Cortlandt’s Sprout Brook Park.
Hen Hud pushed across four runs in the opening inning, all with two outs, and never looked back, cruising to a 15-0 six-inning victory. Tournament MVP Sydney Muranaka reached base four times and Sailor starter Alana Espinoza limited the Foxes to just three hits in her five innings on the mound.
The Sailors were already leading by 14 runs when they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning. Muranaka sent the first pitch she saw to the gap in left-center field for a triple and, one batter later, came in to score the game-ending run on a single to left by Lisa Pasquale.
For Fox Lane first-year head coach ToniAnn Licata, whose work-in-progress team recently endured a six-game losing streak, the loss to the Sailors was a vivid reminder of some of the problems she’s witnessed all season.
“Well, with our girls, we just need to work better at being a team and just really communicating,” she said. “Honestly, I think the most frustrating thing is the base running. We just need to trust ourselves. I tell them this all the time, they need to believe in themselves that they’re better than they think they are.”
The Foxes, now 3-7 this season, began the day by crushing Putnam Valley 19-2, led by catcher Katie Cristiano, who had three hits, including two doubles, and scored four times. Quoya Schnell and Hannah Getman chipped in with a pair of hits apiece, but Licata was also impressed by what she saw offensively from her entire lineup.
“We did a great job,” she said. “We were hitting the ball really well. We really did well on getting an accumulation of hits. But we had the bases loaded twice and we just made some running errors. So we just have to work on that.”
Facing a Hen Hud team that has now won six straight games after starting the year 0-2, Fox Lane got a one-out single to right field by starting pitcher Jordynn Killion. But she was left stranded as Cristiano grounded to short and Sydney Hurwitz popped out to second base.
In the bottom of the first, Killion, who was later named to the all-tourney team, was just one out away from retiring the side when the Sailors’ Ja’Nae Walker sent a long fly to right-center field that dropped between Getman and Megan Ruckel, bringing home the first run of the game. An infield hit soon scored Walker, then a wild pickoff throw brought in another run. Hen Hud’s fourth run of the inning came when Muranaka lined a single to right.
The Foxes’ Victoria Bodine was robbed of a hit leading off the second when her line drive was snagged by first basemen Pasquale. The next two batters fanned, but the score remained 4-0 as Killion retired the Sailors in order in the second.
Ruckel led off the third inning with a base on balls, stole second base and moved to third on Getman’s ground out. But the Fox threat to get on the scoreboard ended as Killion lined out to right field. Killion’s day on the hill came to an end in the bottom of the inning after Walker belted a long two-run triple over the head of Getman in center.
Hurwitz came on in relief and her first pitch was smacked to left field for a run-scoring double by Emma Morley. Even though Hurwitz got out of further trouble by stranding two runners, the Foxes found themselves trailing 7-0.
The Foxes threatened in the top of the fourth inning as Cristiano led off with a line-drive double to right-center field and Hurwitz followed with a single to center. But with runners on the corners, the Sailors’ Espinoza escaped unscathed as Bodine popped out, Schnell flied to center and Gabby Naar grounded out to short.
Hen Hud added two more runs in its half of the fourth, then Espinoza retired the Foxes easily in the top of the fifth. The Sailors sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of four walks and scoring five more times.
By the time the Foxes came to bat in the sixth, they were trailing 14-0. They put two runners aboard with just one out, but Espinoza got a strikeout and then a pop-up to first base, ending the inning. The Sailors soon provided a mercy-rule ending to the contest with the triple by Muranaka and single from Pasquale.
“We’ve just got to work on making plays,” said Licata, who is now looking forward to winnable games against Arlington B and Ossining this coming week. “They just need to trust themselves. I think we’re so worried about going from base to base instead of trusting that they could, if they get a good jump, advance to second base.”
Despite being blanked by the Sailors, Licata remains pleased with what her hitters have displayed so far, while also hoping their softball instincts improve down the road.
“They’re hitting the ball really well,” she said. “I’m really proud of them for that. But, yeah, mostly focusing on our base running and just working together, learning from each other. Really focusing and paying attention to the game and seeing what they can improve on.”
Andy is a sports editor at Examiner Media, covering seven high schools in the mid-Westchester region with a notebook and camera. He began there in the fall of 2007 following 15 years as a candid photographer for the largest school picture company in the tri-state area.