Coming into Wednesday’s Section VI Class C semifinal, neither Falconer nor Randolph had surrendered a run in the postseason.
Another strong outing in the circle by eighth-grader Emily Rhinehart kept that streak going for as they beat Randolph 2-0 Wednesday night.
The win sends them to the Section VI Class C Championship on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Allegany-Limestone where they will face the No. 4 seed Gowanda Panthers.
After Rhinehart surrendered a lead-off walk to Kyra Pence, Sadie Steward popped up between the circle and home plate, and Rhinehart made an amazing leaping catch and was able to throw Pence out at first for the double play. Randolph’s Kendall Steward popped out to end the inning.
“I knew it was absolutely going to be a tough game coming in,” coach Kayleigh Sieber said. “They have an amazing pitcher. She [Kendall Steward] is the real deal, she moves the ball well, she can move batters off-balance, and that really was something we had to adjust to at the plate today.”
Falconer made it tough on Randolph’s junior pitcher from the moment they stepped up to bat in the first inning. Falconer was able to quickly load the bases with one out but failed to come away with any runs.
“My idea was let’s play some small ball, let’s put the ball in play, make the defense work,” Sieber said.
Falconer did just that in the bottom of the second. After Dani Krenzer was walked, Angelina Fiasco advanced her to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then Kayla Lynn belted a single into right-center field to get the Falcons on the board.
In the top half of the fifth, with the bottom of the Cardinals order up, Falconer’s senior shortstop Tess Spangenburg stepped up. Three straight batters put the ball in play in her direction, capped off by an incredible over the shoulder diving catch in shallow left field to put the Cardinals down in order.
“We knew our pitcher [Emily Rhinehart] would do good, she had it under control, and we all had her back,” Spangenburg remarked.
After Rhinehart led off the bottom half of the inning with a triple, Spangenberg sent a deep fly ball to left-center that was able to get Rhinehart home and give the Falcons a much-needed insurance run. “I just had to put something in play, and make sure I got that run in for my team.”
Rhinehart cruised through the final two innings and was able to complete the shutout, handing Falconer the victory. “It was a good team win today,” Spangenburg said.
Rhinehart finished with seven innings pitched, only giving up three hits and two walks.
“She’s a gamer,” Sieber said. “You saw it in the first inning, the bunt came right back to her, and was able to make a double play out of it. That’s her encapsulated in that moment – she’s a gamer.”
“We are focusing on one step at a time. It’s about the bite that’s on the fork, not the food that’s on the plate.”
Rhinehart: 7 IP, 3 H, K, 2 BB, 1-2, triple, run
Lynn: 2-4, 2 singles, RBI
Spangenburg: 0-1, RBI, SB
Steward: 6 IP, 7 K, 5 H, 2 BB, 2 ER
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