MOREAU — An unlikely run to the State Softball Tournament ended quietly for Fort Ann on Saturday at Moreau Rec.
Silenced at the plate early and unable to mount a threat late, the Cardinals were ushered out of the Class D state semifinals by top-ranked Deposit and pitching ace Makenzie Stiles.
Fort Ann was held to three hits by Stiles in a 6-1 Class D semifinal loss to Deposit, which went on to win its third straight state championship with a 1-0 victory over Heuvelton later in the day.
A few tears were shed after their semifinal loss, but the sullen faces of the still-young Cardinals wore a determined “wait till next year” look. Fort Ann (16-3) did not even win its league this season, yet made its sixth straight trip to the state final four.
“We worked hard to even get here — a lot of people didn’t think we would be here,” said senior third baseman Allison Vrooman, holding the state semifinalist plaque. “We really pushed the girls this year. We did as much as we could and we got to this point. I’m proud of that and I think we should be proud even to hold this, because it’s not something everybody gets to hold.”
“It took a lot for us to get here, and we knew once we got here, we were going to have to put the bat on the ball,” senior first baseman Taylor Foran said. “But nothing fell our way today.”
“These girls have nothing to be ashamed of,” Cardinals coach Jason Humiston said. “They fought hard. A lot of people had us written off, not even winning Section II. I’m so proud of these girls — they earned every bit of it.”
Despite putting six runners on base in the first three innings — courtesy of five walks and a hit batter — Fort Ann was unable to solve Stiles until it was too late.
“We definitely needed to string our hits together more,” said Kayla Bailey, Fort Ann’s sophomore pitcher. “We only had three, but we made more contact than we thought we were going to.”
“It was one of those days where the ball just didn’t seem to fall in the lines, we hit a lot of foul balls,” said Humiston, whose No. 3-ranked Cardinals fell in the state semifinals for the third straight season. “Their pitcher is awfully tough, and we knew that. We tried to get to her early on — I thought the first three innings were our best opportunities.”
Fort Ann had prime scoring chances in the first and second innings, but started each inning in a two-out hole. In the first, the Cards got a pair of walks, but struck out to end the inning. In the second, they loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter, but a flyout ended the threat.
Despite the walks, Stiles, a sophomore, carried a no-hitter through four innings and finished with 13 strikeouts.
“Our pitcher was a little bit hyped-up in the beginning and missing her spots, but she was able to settle down and locate where she needed to,” Deposit coach Dan Briggs said.
“We were doing a good job of laying off her rise ball and making her work,” Humiston said. “She had five walks early on — we just couldn’t get that big hit. One run isn’t going to do it with this team. They’re two-time state champions for a reason.”
Freshman Sarah Paige led off the fifth with a double to deep left field. Bailey scored her with a single up the middle to cut Deposit’s lead to 3-1. However, Bailey was thrown out trying to reach third on the throw home.
The Lumberjacks were led at the plate by the Martin sisters. Erin Ballard and Mikayla Martin drove in runs in the second, and in the third, Bryn Martin and Kyra Martin blasted back-to-back doubles for a 3-0 lead. Deposit put the game away with a three-run sixth, including a two-run single by Aubrin Smith.
“They hit the ball extremely hard — they kept finding balls down the line,” Humiston said. “Kayla was actually making good pitches, they were just hitting it. Some of the balls were low and away, and they were still driving them.”
The loss was the final game for a trio of veteran senior infielders — Vrooman, Foran and Emily Jackson — but the Cardinals return several talented underclassmen.
“Tradition never graduates,” Humiston said with a smile. “We’re just going to keep moving forward. Our younger girls that were in the dugout — they’re going to get better, those sophomores and freshmen. They’re hungry to win. We’re just going to keep plugging away. We’ll be back next year.”
State Class D Semifinal
Deposit (20-3) 021 003 0 — 6 8 1
Fort Ann (16-3) 000 010 0 — 1 3 3
WP — Makenzie Stiles (20-3). LP — Kayla Bailey (14-3). 2B — Bryn Martin (D), Kyra Martin (D), Erin Ballard (D), Sarah Paige (FA).
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity and check out his blogs on poststar.com.