CORNING - A matchup between two of the best pitchers in Section IV lived up to the billing Friday in Corning as the Hawks and Laura Bennett bested Madison Rogers and the Blue Raiders 1-0 in eight innings to force a tiebreaker for the STAC West title.
Bennett was perfect through seven innings, and the only hit for Horseheads came in the eighth inning on a scorching ground ball from Tess Cites who was erased on a caught stealing.
The Le Moyne-bound senior punched out 15 batters in eight innings and threw an economical 93 pitches.
“It was a really good game,” said Bennett. “We kept our intensity level up, and we need to do that every single game now.”
Bennett tossed the one-hitter coming off of a no-hitter two days earlier on Senior Night.
“I thought she was outstanding on the mound,” Corning head coach Mike Johnston said. “She hit her spots, she had 15 strikeouts -- and you don’t do that to Horseheads. I have a lot of respect for coach [Al] Falkowski and his group. They are a good ball club.”
For Horseheads, Rogers was just as good, allowing only seven hits and walking two batters while striking out 10.
Corning had a chance to score in the third inning with runners on second and third with nobody out, but Rogers fanned the next batter and forced a popup and a ground out to end the threat.
“We had chances in the game to score,” said Johnston. “We tell our players, ‘execution is on the players,’ so that’s an area we can improve upon.”
The Hawks finally broke through in the eighth.
Corning started the inning off with a leadoff ground ball off the bat of Ataliya Rijo that was hit so hard that it bounced off the fence before anyone could get a glove on it. After a bunt attempt that didn’t advance the runner, Ellie Daughtery pulled a 1-1 pitch to left field that plated Rijo.
The duo of Rijo and Daugherty led the Hawks at the plate with two hits a piece with Bennett, Erin Austin and Jenna Stansfield contributing hits.
With the win, the Hawks and Horseheads both finish the regular season 13-3 and will play again today at 12:30 p.m. in Corning to crown a Southern Tier Athletic Conference West champion.
There's a strong likelihood of the same pitching matchup.
“I’m so excited, I can’t wait,” Bennett said of the rematch against the Blue Raiders.
Corning will host the game because the Hawks allowed the fewest amount of runs in the STAC.
That's largely because of Bennett, who recorded shutouts in 11 of 16 regular season games.