Afton’s return to statewide softball prominence went according to plan for nearly the entirety of this season.
With the exception of the Crimson Knights’ final game .
Fort Ann scored three runs in the fourth inning to break a 1-all tie, then withstood a last-inning rally to hold on for a 5-2 victory over Afton in the state Class D championship game Saturday at the Adirondack Sports Complex.
The Section 2 champion Cardinals (25-0) completed a perfect season, while denying Afton (22-2) its eighth state title and first since 2009.
Afton was making its first state-playoff appearance after a rare two-year absence that seemed like forever for a program long one of the state’s best, and it appeared it might be one that could end gloriously when it struck first for a run in the first inning.
But Fort Ann responded with a run in the second inning to tie the score at 1, then seized control with a three-run fourth inning.
Kayla Bancroft led off the inning with a single, and one out later Bri Amodio had a single to put runners on first and second.
Following another out, Mikayla Graves drew a walk off Afton starter Cassidy Phillips to load the bases before Kimmi Ostrander hit a two-run single to center to put Fort Ann ahead 3-1. A passed ball ensued, allowing Graves to score from third base to make it 4-1.
Fort Ann added another run in the fifth inning to push its lead to 5-1, and seemed well on its way to the title against an Afton squad that had only four hits through six innings.
But Afton made it interesting in the seventh.
Shakari Coss was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Shawna Stevens hit a single to right, but Coss was thrown out trying to advance to third.
However, Tanya Hatton singled to put runners on first and third, and Ashley Rogalski followed with an RBI single that made it 5-2, though Hatton was thrown out trying to advance to third base on the play.
Still, when Sierra Palmatier singled to left following Rogalski’s hit, it brought the tying run to the plate in Payton Cutting. The junior flied out to right field to end the game.
Afton coach Cindy Bostelman was disappointed in the outcome but otherwise was thrilled with the season, especially considering the relative youth of her squad.
“This is a unique group, I have no seniors in this starting lineup,” said Bostelman, who has coached five of Afton’s seven state-title teams. “They’re hungry , the desire to want to come back and the feelings of being here will be in their minds. I don’t think they’ll be down long, it’s a sad ending but they know what to expect and what we need to do to get back.”
“That Fort Ann was a great team, they did a great job putting the ball in play.”
Afton made it to the title game with a 1-0 victory over Section 3’s Hamilton earlier Saturday.
The two teams combined for three hits, with Phillips tossing a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts for the Crimson Knights. She managed to outduel Hamilton pitcher Becca Rogers, who allowed two hits with 12 strikeouts.
Afton got its run in the third inning against Hamilton. After loading the bases with one out, Connor Decker plated Ashley Rogalski when she reached on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop.