Second Straight Walk-off Win for Orange
Published on April 30, 2017
Photo, story, and video by Lauren Walsh
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — With extra innings looming, Syracuse’s Sammy Fernandez got up to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning Saturday. The score was tied at one with two out. But for the second day in a row there would be no extra innings after all.
Fernandez slapped a single, beating out the throw to first base. As the crowd cheered, an audible, “Rally!” could be heard. The Orange obliged.
Alicia Hansen came to the plate next and when she singled to left center field, Fernandez was off.
Virginia Tech bobbled the ball in the outfield, but it likely didn’t matter; Fernandez had her eyes set on home plate. She beat the throw and scored the game-winning run for the Orange (29-18, 9-10 ACC) in the 2-1 win over Virginia Tech (19-33, 5-18 ACC) at the SU softball stadium.
Head coach Mike Bosch said the ending was eerily similar to Friday’s game when Syracuse beat the Hokies 3-2 with a walk-off hit by Fernandez.
“They finished with their #9 batter batting in the seventh inning as they did yesterday…” Bosch said. “We had our #8 and #9 batters lead off the bottom of the seventh as we did yesterday. It was just a matter of Sammy being the one to get on base and Hansen knocked her in.”
Syracuse got up to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning on Friday with the score tied 2-2. Olivia Martinez hit a double to right field and Alyssa Dewes came on to pinch run for her.
Fernandez ripped a single to left field and drove in Dewes for the game-winning run. in game one of the 3-game series.
On Saturday Fernandez made the slide at the plate look easy, but she hustled all the way from first to home on a single to left center field to score the walk-off run in game two.
Syracuse hadn’t had a walk-off win all season. Now, the Orange has had two in a row. SU recorded five hits in the first game and seven in the second.
Three different pitchers took the mound for SU. Bosch said it was his game plan from the start to use all three.
AnnaMarie Gatti started the game and pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing 3 hits. Gatti gave up two hits in the first inning, but stranded those runners on base.
“She mixed the change up in there well, got ahead of batters, really didn’t put anybody on base herself, and I thought that was a really successful outing for her,” Bosch said.
In the bottom of the first, Faith Cain singled to right and knocked in Sydney O’Hara, a Cicero-North Syracuse grad, to give Syracuse the 1-0 lead.
After a quiet two innings, the Hokies got on the board. Gatti only allowed one run, a home run from VT’s Emma Strouth. Gatti also walked one and struck out two of the 18 batters she faced.
Alexa Romero relieved Gatti in the top of the fifth inning with two out. She pitched exactly one inning, striking out one of three Hokies she faced.
Next on the mound for SU was O’Hara. She came in for Romero in the top of the sixth and finished the game. O’Hara pitched 1 1/3 innings and allowed one hit while striking out three.
“She’s come in to close games and finished games and those pressure situations that you need to have an experienced pitcher in she’s done a great job,” Bosch said.
Syracuse struggled at the plate against a strong performance by Elizabeth Birle. The VT righty threw 6 2/3 innings allowing seven hits and just two runs. The SU offense finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning with that slap hit single from Fernandez and and the game-winning line drive by Hansen.
In Friday’s game, the Orange defense made two errors. Hansen said SU made sure not to make those same mistakes on Saturday.
“We wanted to clean up a little bit from yesterday,” Hansen said. “That was a goal. We had two errors on the board yesterday and as a whole we decided that we should clean that up and see how much better it leaves us.”
On Saturday, Syracuse didn’t record any errors. The Hokies committed one error but that error came in the seventh inning when Hansen singled to the outfield for the win.
Bosch said the Orange has been focusing on improving in the field to improve the outcome of games.
“Defensively we’ve tried to make an emphasis on playing well. When we do well in the field we tend to do well in the game.”
He credited Syracuse’s pitching in the strong defensive effort.
“I think it goes back to the start on the mound, I mean the ability to hit spots and make good pitches really limits the number of balls that are hit hard. “
Syracuse holds a 9-10 mark in the ACC. According to the USA Softball poll, No. 3 ranked Florida State is the only ACC school in the Top 25. SU lost all three games played against the Seminoles this season.
Despite those loses and a less-than-ideal conference record, Bosch and his players are optimistic about their chances in the ACC Tournament.
“I think if we keep taking this momentum into ACCs then we’re gonna be a tough team to beat,” Gatti said.
“The ACC in general is tough and it’s tight no matter who you’re playing, every game you play is tight and you need to make sure you’re playing your best. I think it’s an indication of how comparable and how competitive the ACC is,” Bosch said.
Hansen said Syracuse needs to be aggressive and set out to beat each opponent to do well in the ACC.
“We can’t count on other teams to lose for us to be in a better spot in the ACC. We need to do our job,” Hansen said.
The conference tournament takes place in Chapel Hill, N.C. from May 11-13.