GAVAC tops Soroptimist in AGSA championship game

Friday’s advanced division championship game in the Amsterdam Girls Softball Association (AGSA) had a little bit of everything: stellar pitching performances, timely hitting, and dramatic inning ending defensive plays. It also featured another big game from GAVAC hurler Sydney Szczepanik who struck out 11 batters, scattered ten hits, mostly infield singles, and walked only one in leading the division’s top seed over a determined Soroptimist team, 9-6 in the 2016 season AGSA finale at Shuttleworth Park.

“Sydney’s pitching and solid plays in the field at key moments in the game,” said GAVAC coach Rich Wozniak when asked about the keys to his teams victory. “We made a few errors but didn’t fall apart defensively.”

Leading 7-1 after four innings, GAVAC faced its toughest challenge of the playoffs when Soroptimist loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the fifth. Back to back singles by Taylor Lanza and Mady Carmona, along with Ashley Krohn getting hit by a pitch put Szczepanik in a situation with little room to work. The GAVAC defense was up to the challenge and got the first out when Lanza tried to steal home. Third baseman Kaylee Cappuccio’s throw was on target to catcher Karly Power to tag out Lanza and stop Sorptimists’ momentum. Szczepanik issued her only walk of the game to the next batter Lexie Rodriguez, and Ella Sawitzki brought in one run with an infield hit, but GAVAC got out of the inning with an unassisted double play by first baseman Tehya Rodriguez, who snared a pop up off the bat of Abby Penninger and then stepped on first to double off the runner ending the rally.

“If Sydney (Szczepanik) walks one or two in a game it’s a lot,” Coach Wozniak said. “But she always comes back strong.”

Szczepanik’s focus would be tested again in the sixth when Karen Troche reached base on an error to lead off the inning and quickly came around to score when Jackie Stanavich lined the first pitch she saw all the way to the wall in left field and circled the bases for an inside the park home run. Suddenly, Soroptimist had cut the lead to 7-4 and brought the top of their lineup to the plate. Szczpanik and her teammates remained calm and got the outs on a pop up back to the pitchers circle, a ground ball to shortstop Jordyn Wozniak who made a strong throw to get the runner by a step, and a strikeout that gave the GAVAC offense a chance to respond.

GAVAC put a pair of bases runners on board early in the bottom of the sixth when Szczepanik and Jordyn Wozniak earned walks with no one out. Szczepanik scored on a throwing error, and Karly Power wasted no time in plating Wozniak with a single to left field. GAVAC got the hits when they needed them throughout the game.

“We took advantage of situations when runners were on base,” Coach Wozniak said. “We got hits and moved the runners around.”

GAVAC (11-1) built a 5-0 lead after two innings on the strength of back to back run scoring doubles by Wozniak and Power in the first and a two run single by Wozniak that boosted a three run second inning. A pair of hit batters and a bases loaded walk to Macie Pasquarelli gave GAVAC two more runs in the home half of the fourth. Wozniak scored three of GAVAC’s runs, Cappuccio and Szczepanik scored two runs each, and Ayanna Rodriguez and Lauren Bush each scored a run for the division champs. They would need every one of them as the Soroptimist (6-5-1) team continued to play with determination right up to the last out.

Soroptimist catcher Allie Krohn, who played varsity softball at both Amsterdam and Fonda-Fultonville High Schools lined a double into left field to lead off the top of the seventh inning. It was Krohn’s final at bat at Shuttleworth Park. The recent FFHS graduate will continue her softball career at the collegiate level at Elmira College. Szczepanik got stronger and struck out the next two batters putting her team one out away from the title. Then after an RBI single to Mady Carmona, Szczepanik fielded a ground ball from Ashley Krohn and tossed it to Tehya Rodriguez for the final out.

“They kept progressing throughout the year,” Coach Wozniak said of his team. “They grew together from when they first started practicing. The girls with some experience like Karly (Power), and Kaylee (Cappuccio) helped the younger girls. They really complimented the younger girls and it showed from the first game right up to the last game.”

Both Power and Cappuccio played for the Amsterdam junior varsity this past season, as did Szczepanik. On Friday night, the talented hurler who will be an eighth grader in the Amsterdam School District in the fall, struck out five of the first six batters she faced and took a no hitter into the third inning before Ella Sawitzki’s infield single broke up the effort.

“She’s flawless,” Coach Wozniak said of Szczepanik. “She’s been solid for us all year and she’s only thirteen years old. When you see what she does out on the field you tend to forget that she’s only thirteen.”

Soroptimist actually outhit GAVAC 10-6, but three of the first four hits were singles that didn’t make it out of the infield. Madison Lanza’s triple to right field was the first hard hit ball that led to Soroptimist’s first run of the game. Allie Krohn had a double and a single for Soroptimist. Jackie Stanavich added a single to go along with her home run, and Mady Carmona had a pair of singles and scored a pair of runs to lead Soroptimist. Ashley Krohn added an RBI single for the division runner up.

The game was not without outstanding defensive plays by both teams. GAVAC catcher Karly Power erased a base runner in the fourth inning when she and Jordyn Wozniak teamed up to get Stanavich trying to swipe second base. GAVAC left fielder Mya Jones gloved a sharply hit ground ball from Allie Krohn that had eluded two fielders to save a pair of runs in the fourth. Soroptimist got a good effort from Ella Sawitzki, who was called up from the 2016 AGSA Intermediate champion Imperial Lanes team to pitch in place of her sister Emery, who could not make the game. The younger Sawitzki gave up only three hits and kept her team in the game by not allowing GAVAC to break the game open with a big inning. Soroptimist also benefited from a double play started by a diving catch from center fielder Mackenzie Makarowsky on a fly ball off the bat of Alyssa Swartz, Makarowsky alertly fired the ball to first to double a runner off base.

The Amsterdam Girls Softball Association will be hosting a 10- Under Amateur Softball Association (ASA) tournament at Shuttleworth Park on July 29- 31.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.