By Brandon Schlager email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — GRAND ISLAND — Grand Island softball sophomore Alley Cutting stood at the center of the diamond Tuesday night ready to put the finishing touches on a no-hitter, her best game of the season.
But two thirds of the way through Kenmore East’s final at-bats, a short pop-up off the bat of Kara Landberg turned into trouble. When the ball deflected off the glove of second baseman Leah Geis and into right field, Jessica Amsdill charged in and made a heads-up throw to first, saving Cutting’s no-hitter by a half step.
Cutting retired the first 14 batters she faced and piled up a season-high 16 strikeouts as No. 2 Grand Island defeated the seventh-seeded Bulldogs 4-0 in a Class A-1 quarterfinal game at Veterans Park.
Cutting struck out seven straight batters to start and was flawless through 5 ⅔ innings until a walk broke up her perfect game. Only two more batters reached base on throwing errors the rest of the way in what had been the sophomore’s greatest performance to date.
“She was at her absolute best today. It was her best game all season,” Vikings coach Cheryl O’Connor said. “All of her pitches were working. Her breaking pitches, her fastball. Everything was working. … (the Bulldogs) didn’t know what to expect.”
Grand Island’s batters built the four-run advantage for Cutting off just five hits.
Geis plated the first run in the third inning off an RBI triple and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Jenna Neff one batter later as the Vikings jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They added two more runs over the fourth and fifth innings to build the lead for Cutting.
Cutting has been lights out in a season that has gone about as well as Grand Island softball could have hoped. By most accounts, her development as a pitcher — along with her vicious rise ball — had been the biggest reason for the Vikings’ surge to second place in the Niagara Frontier League.
“She has grown so much as a team player,” O’Connor said. “She understands that she doesn’t have to do it herself because of what’s working behind her.”
Melissa Gibson added another triple in the fifth inning and scored a run for the Vikings. Ashley Colan and Ciara Alcorn scored the other runs, and Alcorn also had an RBI.
The Vikings will host sixth-seeded West Seneca East in a semifinal matchup at 4:45 p.m. Friday. The Trojans took down Hutch Tech, 2-1, in their quarterfinal game Tuesday.
Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.