Having ended a 15-year wait for a Section II championship, the Guilderland softball team entered a new realm when it played Tuesday in the Class AA regional finalist at the Gillette Road Middle School Complex.
But for the Lady Dutch, that meant running into long-time Section III power Cicero-North Syracuse and its dominant pitching ace, Sydney O’Hara, who starred once more as the Northstars prevailed 7-0.
O’Hara, who is headed to Syracuse University next year, struck out 12 Guilderland batters and did not allow a hit until the seventh. She also hit a fifth inning solo home run to help C-NS, a state finalist each of the last three years, pull away.
“Sydney is the best pitcher we’ve seen this season,” said Guilderland head coach Lou Marino. “She wasn’t going to give us much.”
The Lady Dutch knew this going into the game, and it would spend the early stages guessing how to hit O’Hara’s 65 mile-per-hour fastball. Though Mallory Harrigan (in the first inning) and Tori Greco (in the third inning) drew walks, they were left stranded as O’Hara’s strikeout total piled up.
Meanwhile, Guilderland pitcher Taylor Tewksbury tried to tiptoe around C-NS’s dangerous lineup, but the Northstars went up 2-0 on Morgan Phillips’ two-run single in the bottom of the first inning.
It stayed 2-0 for a while thanks to a strong defensive effort by the Lady Dutch. Gabby Marino provided a highlight with a running catch in center field in the third, starting a double play as she threw to Torie Rathwell to force out Lindsey Silfer.
“We played perfect defense,” said Lou Marino.
But in the fifth, O’Hara made sure no one caught Tewksbury’s pitch as she crushed it well over the right field fence to make the score 3-0. C-NS added four more runs in the sixth inning to put the game out of Guilderland’s reach.
Guilderland achieved a small victory when Jenna Cubello’s double in the top of the seventh broke up O’Hara’s no-hit bid. Rathwell added a single before C-NS got the final outs.
Though disappointed, the Lady Dutch were far from discouraged with this defeat, since just two seniors — Cubello and Harrigan — graduate. Everyone else is back to make another title push in 2014, but Marino said his players have already accomplished a lot and just ran into a better opponent on this day.
“I am very pleased and proud of the girls,” said Marino. “There’s no reason to be dejected. We didn’t beat ourselves.`