Rye Neck Softball
Panthers Defeat Valhalla 7-1 to Reach the Finals
By Mitch Silver
One year ago, Rye Neck met Valhalla in the Section 1 Class B Softball finals. And they lost, something they rarely do in big games.
Two days ago, the Panthers played their biggest game of 2018. And once more they faced Valhalla, the defending champs, in the other dugout. If, as the Italians say, revenge is a dish best served cold, the conditions weren’t perfect — at almost 90°, it was practically the warmest day of the spring.
You’d never know it was about revenge by talking with Rye Neck Coach Joan Spedafino and her co-coach and husband, Frank. Surveying the 200 fans who turned out for the game, they simply said, “Your typical Valhalla-Rye Neck excitement.”
And it <was> exciting, at least for a while. The Vikings scored first in the second inning on a couple of hits and a misplayed infield grounder. But Rye Neck came roaring back in the home half. Carissa Pecchia punched a single to left and Alexa Garcia’s seeing-eye three-bouncer slipped between the shortstop and third baseman. With one out, Stephanie Santoli singled to right, but Pecchia was thrown out trying to score. No problem: Marissa Santoli drove Garcia in with another bingle and took second on the throw in. Then Olivia Dunne smashed what proved to be the game-winner with a scorcher of a double just over the third-base bag. Score: 3-1 Rye Neck after two.
The game’s big play came in the visiting third, when the fourth-seeded Vikings bunched three singles, the last one a liner to center that sent their runner sprinting for home. But Stephanie Santoli (one of three Rye Neck Santolis in the game!) threw a perfect BB to Sam Yannuzzi covering the plate. Out! Inning over.
After that it was all about Dunne doing her thing on the mound for the top seeds. Three more Panthers crossed the plate in the fourth inning and another in the fifth to make the final 7-1 and set up the Class B final tomorrow against Westlake at 9 a.m. in North Arlington. Set your alarm.
Olivia Dunne drives home the winner with a double over third.
Sam Yannuzzi shows the ump she held onto the ball after tagging the runner.