Coming off its best victory of the season on Tuesday night, a 3-2 road win over first-place league foe Auburn, the Rome Free Academy softball team was looking to build on that momentum with one of the top teams in the Central New York Counties Leagues, Liverpool, coming to town on Wednesday evening at Kost Field.
Through the first five innings, the Romans seemed to have all the momentum they would need to pull off a stunning triumph against one of their longest CNYCL rivals, but then one inning would do them in.
The heavy-hitting Lady Warriors scored five runs in the sixth inning after they batted around the order and starting pitcher Dana Nicoletti had enough stamina left to finish off her complete-game five-hitter as the Lady Black Knights suffered a 5-2 loss during a crossover game.
Nicoletti struck out 11 batters, issued only one walk, and allowed two runs off five hits. She struck out five of the last seven batters she faced and improved to 8-2 on the hill this season for the 13-3 overall Lady Warriors.
RFA senior starter Halie Schoff nearly matched Nicoletti pitch-for-pitch as she finished with seven hits given up, no extra-base hits allowed, didn’t garner a walk, and struck out four batters to suffer the hard-luck loss and fall to 2-3 on the hill.
Up until the fifth inning, the hard-throwing Schoff had only allowed one hit, but the Lady Warriors had scored five runs off five hits and two costly Rome errors. "This game is very mental, and with our team when we make a mistake it’s tough for us to get it out of our heads. Today I think we learned a lot from this game, and we’re working on taking care of our mistakes. We’re done with the mental errors," said Schoff, who has struck out 28 batters in 35 innings this season while sporting a 2.00 ERA. "We beat them a solid six innings. It was all mental for us today," she added.
RFA took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning after Melissa Gilbert roped a one out double to deep centerfield, and Kaysie Gregory lined an 0-2 pitch with two outs back up the middle of the field to plate Gilbert, and freshmen Alex Kimmel followed that up with an RBI single of her own, and quickly Rome had all the momentum going in their favor heading into the final two innings.
But it wouldn’t last long. The left-handed batter Holly Clark started the top of the sixth off with a bloop single over the third baseman’s head, after a Alicia Hansen single, Liverpool called for a fake bunt and double steal to push the runners to second and third with no outs. Stoddard connected on the next pitch with a two-RBI single to right field, followed by Bri Harris reaching on a error and Allyse Burbos and Nicoletti followed that up with RBI singles before the damage was done.
"It’s a tough loss. We went right in it for six innings, and one bad inning can hurt you, and it did," the senior catcher Gregory said.
"Mental errors, we can’t keep those in our heads, we have to know what we are doing with the ball. It’s frustrating because we were up on a very good team, but we have to play a whole seven innings strong," she added after RFA dropped to 5-8 overall and remained 4-4 in the CNYCL American Division.
The game felt eerily similar to a contest earlier in the season against visiting Cicero-North Syracuse back on April 12.
RFA had a 3-1 lead before the Lady Northstars broke the game open with a three-run fourth inning and went on to a 9-3 victory.
Tabolt said that it all came down to one key inning against both of those teams. "They’re not only the best teams in the section, but some of the best teams in the state, and we were right there with them. If not for one bad inning in each of those games, we might be talking differently right now," Tabolt said.
"They’re (Liverpool) one of the best hitting teams in the league, we knew they were going to put the bat on the ball and we had to make the plays out there. When we went up 2-0 going into the sixth you think you have a pretty good chance, but then it fell off for us, and we weren’t prepared for it," he added.
Liverpool, with a lineup that features six hitters batting well over .300, have only lost to one Section III team this year coming against unbeaten C-NS, 13-6.
RFA will play its sixth game in six days when it hosts Baldwinsville tonight at Kost Field starting at 5.