By Doug Smith
Niagara Gazette — On the very first pitch, Grand Island and Lew-Port softball seconded the notion that this game was special. Viking leadoff hitter Leah Geis turned on it, got it all, far over the ahead of Lancer left fielder Rachel SanGiacomo.
Never giving up on it, SanGiacomo, her name tag flapping on her back, turned and tracked it down, instant highlight reel. Often it takes players from mid-size schools an inning or two to get into the game, but this was right off the bat. Literally.
Both teams had begun the day by honoring loved ones claimed by cancer, as well as those still fighting the fight. Compared to that battle, zeroing in on a line drive hit right on the screws is easy. So was the incredible somersaulting catch made by Lancer shortstop Bailey Stayner four innings later. Geis was the victim of that one, too, although she did wind up with two hits, including an RBI triple.
Lew-Port coach Nina Calarco and new Viking leader Cheryl O’Connor joined in tributes to the honorees. It was as if each team had fielded 18 players, maybe more, for their third annual Strikeout Cancer Game.
Grand Island won, 16-1, with two big late innings after Lew-Port lefty Anastasja Waugaman pitched five brave frames, holding the heart of the Isle order to 2 for 6, undone by some loose fielding in a four-run fourth. Not on her part, though – she had two putouts and five assists.
After giving up a tying RBI double to Thesesa Fleckenstein in the first, GI’s Rosalie Russell retired nine in a row, striking out eight in a five-hitter. Melissa Gibson made an outstanding play at short, as did Ciara Alcorn in center, almost taking out her territorial left fielder in the process.
Isle pounded 20 hits, 13 in the last two innings, which took as long as the first five. Gibson and Alley Cutting launched back-to-back homers in the seventh, Cutting’s shot landing practically in the divot dug by Gibson’s. Every Isle starter hit safely, with multiples by Geis, Jenna Neff, Gibson, Cutting, Jessy Amsdill, Anne Corrao and Ashley Colan.
Grand Island also dug deep, presenting a $350 check toward cancer research, a figure to be remembered long after the score is forgotten. GI improved to 5-2; Lew-Port fell to 1-6 and on the health-and-compassion front, everybody put one in the win column.