On any other night, against any other team, it might have been a victory.
For six and a half innings, Allstate, one of the up-and-coming teams in the North Fork Women’s Softball League, played brilliantly and led perennial powerhouse Fogarty Air Conditioning Service, 13-9, going into the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday night at the Polo Grounds in Greenport.
But Fogarty isn’t just another team. It’s a proud two-time defending champion that relishes a challenge.
The comeback began with a Holli Bollman single. Diana Stulsky followed with a ringing run-scoring double. Lynn Eckert tripled home Stulsky. Melissa Groeneveld singled in Eckert. Singles by Kathy Thompson and Lisa Lappe loaded the bases. Courtney Meringer’s single drove in Groeneveld with the tying run. Elaine Milovich then singled home Thompson with the game-winning run for a 14-13 Fogarty triumph.
It was one of the most stirring comebacks in Fogarty’s history.
“Oh, it was,” Stulsky said. “We were anxious. This is a big relief.”
Stulsky praised the way Allstate battled her team every inch of the way.
“Allstate is a phenomenally improved team,” she said. “They executed well. Their defense was solid and they hit the ball well. I walked a few batters and we made some errors, but Allstate is tenfold better than they were earlier in the season.”
Both teams swung red-hot bats in the first inning as Allstate scored four times and Fogarty answered with three runs.
Tracy Sutton sparked Allstate (2-2) with three hits, including a three-run double.
In the Fogarty half of the first, Stulsky lined a two-run triple and scored on Eckert’s single. Fogarty tied the score at 4-4 in the third when Tanya Rivera singled in Groeneveld. In the fourth, Fogarty took a 6-4 lead as Eckert and Groeneveld had run-scoring singles.
But Allstate got a run back in the fifth and exploded for eight runs in the top of the sixth to go ahead, 13-6.
The hitting of Sutton, who played a solid game defensively at third base, Jill Clacherty (three hits and two RBI) and Erin Bednoski (two hits, three runs and an RBI) ignited the Allstate uprising.
Fogarty got three of the runs back in the bottom of the sixth on run-scoring singles off the bats of Groeneveld, Thompson and Lappe.
Stulsky shut the Allstate bats down in the top of the seventh, setting the stage for her team’s dramatic rally.
“This one was a little too close for comfort,” she said. “All the props go to Allstate. They are a good team. They had the potential. Now they are putting it together.”
Allstate Coach Matt Salzmann was proud of his team’s effort. “Although we lost,” he said, “we showed Fogarty that we are a better team this year and will not go down without a fight.”
In the other game that night, G&C Petroleum broke open a tight game with five big runs in the sixth inning and beat Eric’s Lawn Care, 12-1. Jane van den Thoorn, Olga Turner, Nora Catlin and Diana Visser (two RBI) all had run-scoring singles in the sixth.
Katie Mickaliger’s single drove home Jackie Zilnicki in the first inning. In the second, van den Thoorn knocked in Cathy Daniels with a single. Catlin scored in the third on Amanda Riley’s booming triple. Kerry Tooker and Grace Conklin opened the fourth with singles and came in to score on singles by van den Thoorn and Turner.
That set the stage for G&C’s uprising in the sixth. Turner and Riley provided a pair of insurance runs in the seventh with run-scoring singles. Eric’s Lawn Care dropped to 1-4.
After their scheduled early-season matchup was rained out, Fogarty (4-0) and G&C (4-1) will finally face each other tonight in a battle of the top two teams in the league. Van den Thoorn said her team is looking forward to the showdown.
So, too, are Stulsky and her Fogarty team.
“We don’t take any game lightly,” she said. “But we know we have to bring our ‘A’ game against G&C.”