James Madison never recovered from the emotional swing of the game’s biggest play.
Second-seeded Susan Wagner tied the score on a hit batter and an obstruction call at third base in the bottom of the seventh inning. It later got a walk-off single from Kerri Kelly in the bottom of the eighth to hand No. 3 Madison a heartbreaking 5–4 defeat in the Public School Athletic League Class A softball semifinals on May 30 at the College of Staten Island. It is Madison’s second-straight loss in the final four.
The seventh inning obstruction call was the turning point.
“That’s when we started to think about it too much,” said Madison shortstop Taylor Trim. “It all went down hill from there.”
Madison (16–5) appeared to have stolen its way to the Public School Athletic League Class A softball title game when leadoff hitter Trim reached on a walk with out two outs in the top of the sixth. She stole second, then stole third, and put Madison ahead 4–3 when the throw sailed into left field.
“From the beginning I told myself, ‘be aggressive,’ and that’s all I could do,” Trim said. “I just wanted to get home. I wanted to win. I wanted to go to the championship.”
Ace Isabella Gerone set down Wagner (17–4) in order in the bottom of the inning, but with two strikes she hit No. 9 batter Nicole Williams to start the seventh. She was bunted over to second and the next batter singled to left.
Williams blew threw coach Marco Altieri’s stop sign and collided with Maegan Butrico at third. Williams appeared to be thrown out at home, but the third-base umpire ruled obstruction and awarded Wagner the tying run to make it 4–4.
The Golden Knights went quietly in the top of the eighth. A single and an error put runners on first and third with no outs for Wagner in the bottom of the frame. Altieri pinch-hit the heavy-hitting Kelly with one ball on Kiera Rodriguez. Kelly gave him a better chance of getting a ball hit into the outfield to bring in a run. She served the first pitch she saw into left field to end the game.
“We stole a run. They got a run back, and then unfortunately they got another one,” said Madison coach Thomas Moblilia.
Madison, which has lost its two previous meetings with Wagner, picked up where it left off in the quarterfinals at the plate. Jenna Graffeo drove in Gerone with a run-batted-in single to give the Golden Knights a 1–0 lead in the opening inning. Wagner responded by scoring three times off Gerone in the bottom of the first to take a 3–1 lead. Trim and Valerie Horton both drove in runs with singles in the top of the second to tie the score at 3–3.
Gerone was superb after that. The junior allowed two runs on six hits the rest of the way and struck out six in the game. She changed her pitching motion two weeks ago, but went back to her old ways in hope of increasing her strikeouts. She shook off the slow start.
“I didn’t want to think about it too much and knew I could do it,” Gerone said. “I just tried to pitch my best.”
Madison’s best wasn’t good enough, but it was certainly an improvement from a 10–0 run-rule loss to Construction in last season’s semifinal. With just two seniors on the roster the Golden Knights still take this game as something to build off of for next season.
“This is maybe the second game where I really saw us come together,” Gerone said. “I could see everyone really wanted it. For next year, we all see what we need to do.”