White Plains High School Softball pitcher Ella Utschig stepped off the rubber took a step back on the mound and a couple of deep breaths. With Tigers leading, 3-1, in the bottom of the last inning, R.C. Ketcham had loaded the bases on a walk and two hits.
Utschig, the freshman ace pitcher for White Plains already had 11 strikeouts and needed one more strike for her 12th and to end the game. Utschig fired. “Strike three,” the umpire screamed! Utschig jumps off the mound victorious, as her teammates surround their young freshman pitcher.
The Tigers while leading, 3-1, in the last inning escaped the Indians by third baseman Sarah DiSanto making a crucial catch in foul territory against the fence in front of the home team dugout. And Utschig settling down and striking out her second batter in the last inning.
The WPHS Softball Team, the number one seed in the Sectional One Tournament, won their 19th game this season by beating the number nine seeded R. C. Ketchum High School, 3-1, in the Quarterfinals of the Section One Playoffs, to advance to the AA Semifinals.
“The nerves were definitely getting to me so I had to make sure I took a deep breath and then just threw the ball,” said Utschig, regarding her last strikeout. “It feels amazing to advance but not just for me but for my entire team, because everything I do is for my team,” said Utschig, who scattered seven hits, walked two and struck-out 12 Indians.
The Lady Tigers is a very supportive and unified group. No more influential in this young loyal group is sophomore Team Captain Zoey Kovach. It is very evident during the course of any game that Kovach keeps Utschig focused and the team anchored on defense.
“I have a lot of confidence in Ella’s stuff and it is just important to me that she feels the same way,” commented Kovach. “I would not be able to do all that I do without Ella. I am really proud of us because we work together really well,” acknowledged Kovach.
It was the first inning when Utschig got the most support from her teammates on offense in the Quarterfinal game. The Tigers scored two runs on five hits in the first frame, which was the difference in the game.
Alexa Galligani hit a leadoff double and took two bases on a single by first baseman Ava Rainone. Then, early in the game, Indians pitcher Sky Brandemarte had to deal with Tigers slugger DiSanto with a runner in scoring position. DiSanto delivered an RBI single and Kovach followed suit with an RBI single. “Before the game we were talking about that we wanted to just jump on it because when we put runs up first we do not fall behind,” said Kovach.
Although, Brandemarte got the loss for the Indians she did pitch well, while only allowing the big Tigers bats, one run, one hit and one walk after the first inning. The one hit was leadoff triple in the second inning by steady centerfielder Amanda LeMark. Then, Galligani, at the top of the order, brought her teammate home with a sacrifice fly.
Utschig loaded the bases twice in the game once in the first inning and again in the last inning. Both times she ended the innings on strikeouts without allowing a run. “That was a real money pitch,” said Head Coach Ted O’Donnell, referring to Utschig’s 12th strikeout to end the game. “When the going gets tough: Ella gets going, so it does not surprise me,” complimented Coach O’D.
The Tigers will play the Number 13-seeded Arlington High School in the Section One Semifinals, on Wednesday, May 29, at 4:30 p.m. at WPHS. The Admirals upset the number five-seeded Scarsdale High School, 7-1, in the Quarterfinals to advance to the AA Semifinals.
“It feels good to move on White Plains is hungry,” emphasized Kovach.