Nicole Cring made it look easy Monday, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t feeling the pressure.
“When they loaded the bases with no outs, I was pretty nervous,” said Cring, Cooperstown’s senior right-hander who improved to 19-0 with a 3-0 home win over Pulaski in a Section Three Class C-1 semifinal. “Honestly, I haven’t calmed down yet. My heart is still beating really fast.”
Clinging to a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning, Cooperstown let the Blue Devils load the bases. Libby Greene led off with a pop up that third baseman Lexi Duda lost in the wind for an error. Hannah Potter then singled to right field, sending Greene to third. Potter stole second before Cring walked Rochelle Atkinson to load the bases.
But 12 pitches later, Cring was out of the inning.
First she got Sammie Jones to ground out on a comebacker to the circle. Then she struck out Liz Monnat on four pitches and Simi Minnick on six.
“Getting out of bases loaded with no outs, that was huge,” Cooperstown coach Dave Bliss said.
For good measure, Cring gave herself an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
She led off with a single that went to the right of second baseman Jones. The ball then got past Potter in center field and Cring made it to third on the error. She scored on Ellen Vibbard’s single to right field — the only RBI of the game.
Cooperstown scored its other two runs in the third on two errors by Pulaski shortstop Miranda Edick.
Christina Noto reached on a grounder that Edick knocked down but couldn’t pick up. After Alannah Haggerty advanced Noto to second on a fielder’s choice, Maggie Hall singled to center. Noto went to third and Hall took second uncontested. Duda then hit a grounder that went between Edick’s legs to score both runners.
Cring struck out 10 and walked four in a two-hitter, but Pulaski kept the pressure on her with keen eyes and several foul balls that raised her pitch count.
Cring threw 30 pitches in the first inning alone. By comparison, it took Greene three innings to hit 30 pitches for Pulaski (11-8).
Cring, who broke her single-season program record for strikeouts, got out of a jam in the first inning.
After striking out the first two batters, she walked Potter and Atkinson. Potter stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Pinch-runner Cassie Horridge also stole second.
Jones then hit a sharp ball to second and almost beat it out, but a quick throw by Cooperstown second baseman Jen Flynn ended the threat.
“She went deep in the hole to end that inning,” Bliss said of Flynn, who accounted for eight outs, including a game-ending double play where she caught a line drive by Kate Geer and then threw to Noto at first to double off Ashley Monroe.
“She had a great game for us,” Cring said. “She really made some big plays.”
Hall went 3-for-3 and Erin Hascup went 2-for-3 for Cooperstown (20-0), which played third-seeded Herkimer (19-3) for the C-1 championship in Rome last night after deadline. Herkimer advanced with a 4-3 semifinal victory over Little Falls on Monday.
The C-1 winner will play the C-2 champion, Weedsport or Sandy Creek, for the overall Section Three title at 2 p.m. Saturday at Le Moyne College.
Cooperstown 3, Pulaski 0
Section Three Class C1 semifinals
Pulaski 000 000 0 _ 0 2 3
Cooperstown 002 001 x _ 3 7 2
Libby Greene (L) and Rochelle Atkinson. Nicole Cring (W,19-0) and Erin Hascup.