MOREAU — Vinna Jensen moved to Whitehall this year from a small town in Vermont.
On Friday, the eighth-grader put her own stamp on a historic day for the Railroaders’ softball program.
Jensen’s towering two-run home run helped clinch Whitehall’s 5-1 victory over Salem in the Adirondack League championship game, and ensured another win for the Railroaders’ other eighth-grader, pitching ace Madi Gould.
“It was a curveball that didn’t curve — I jumped all over that,” Jensen said of her shot over the center-field fence. “I thought we did pretty well, we had great defense, our offense was amazing and we just worked.”
It was Whitehall’s first-ever Adirondack League title, as the Railroaders — ranked second in the state in Class D — improved to 12-0 overall.
“It feels really good. It feels even better being undefeated,” senior catcher Jess Moore said.
“We’ve never won a softball title — it feels fantastic,” co-coach Pam Putorti said as she watched her team pose for pictures with the championship trophy. “It feels good to bring good things back to Whitehall.”
Friday’s title matchup was also the first Adirondack League final since 2000 that did not include either Lake George or Fort Ann. Lake George beat Fort Ann 3-2 in Friday’s consolation game.
In Salem, the Railroaders faced a team that they had beaten 13-1 on Wednesday. However, the Generals (9-5) avenged last year’s title-game loss to Lake George with a 5-4 semifinal win Thursday for the rematch.
“What a difference two days makes,” Putorti said. “We played Salem on Wednesday and we ripped the cover off the ball. Today, we knew it was going to be a different game... we knew they were coming to play.”
The Railroaders opened the scoring on RBI singles by Jensen and Kyrie Smith in the first inning, but Whitehall was silenced for most of the next four innings.
“Salem’s defense was incredible,” Whitehall co-coach Chris Bascue said. “I was excited about the way we put the ball in play — but we hit the ball in gaps, holes, everything we could to try to get it through, and they made the plays.”
With two out in the fifth, Gould singled, stole second and scored on Kennedy O’Dell’s base hit. Then Jensen stepped up and crushed a homer that landed several feet past the fence and rolled into the woods beyond.
“Vinna just moved to Whitehall this year — she fits right in. These kids — they’re family,” Putorti said. “Every game, somebody has a good game with the bat, and we just work together and pick each other up. We never have to rely on just one player.”
Gould — pitching for the fourth time in five days — fanned 12 Salem batters and scattered six hits, but was a little frustrated by issuing six walks. She got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third as Jensen assisted on a groundout to end the inning.
Gould ended the game herself, catching a line drive for the final out, and the Railroaders mobbed each other in celebration.
“She struggled a little bit, so we talked to her and said, ‘You have a good defense behind you, just do what you have to do to get the ball across the plate and let the defense take care of the rest,’” Bascue said. “I think her being comfortable like that settled her down. The defense made some good plays and we hit the ball in key situations.”
Salem got a pair of doubles by Alyssa Loveland and another by Tori Cary, but left 11 runners on base. The Generals scored their only run on an error in the sixth.
“We definitely came back and we played stronger defense, and we outhit them,” said Stacy Riche, Salem’s first-year head coach. “We just didn’t have that timely hit. We had at least one runner on every inning, sometimes two or three, but you can’t leave runners on base.”