Sisyphus was doomed to forever roll a giant stone up a mountain but never make it to the top.
By Mitch Silver
Sisyphus was doomed to forever roll a giant stone up a mountain but never make it to the top. It probably felt that way for the seniors on the Rye Neck softball team. Every year they would breeze to their own league title — and set career win records for Coach Joan Spedafino in the process — only to watch the Valhalla Vikings march through the playoffs and make it to the top of Section 1’s mountain. It was that way in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
But not this year.
Behind timely hitting, tight defense, and the flame-throwing right arm of all-Section pitcher Diana King, the Panthers marched up (all right, took the bus up) to North Rockland High School May 30, and faced the top-seeded Vikings to decide who would stand at the summit of Class B softball. In the end, it wasn’t even close.
NYU-bound King, who would reach base all five times she was up, crushed a home run to lead off the third inning and tie the game at 1-1 for the second-seeded Black Cats. Later in the inning, battery mate Samantha Yanuzzi would drive home Nicole Miller with the lead run. Then, in the top of the fifth, King singled, Miller sacrificed her to second, and both Olivia Dunne and Yanuzzi singled to make it 4-1. When both Brianna Cefaloni and Lindsay Walther came around later in the inning, the score was 6-1 going into the bottom of the frame, all the cushion Diana King and her rocket arm would need. (About that rocket arm: six weeks ago she was diagnosed with medial epicondylitis, (“golfer’s elbow”), though she dismissed the soreness as “nothing serious.”)
In the sixth inning Saturday, King did allow a double by her opposite number (and NYU teammate-to-be) Sydni Holtz to make it 6-2 after six innings, but runs by Cefaloni and Lauren Vallerelli, running for Walther, in the top of the seventh made the final tally 8-2.
The way the Panthers made it to the top is instructive. Coach Sped’s charges were no-hit by rival Ardsley in mid-season, dropping a 1-0 decision at home. Then Valhalla walloped them by 18-1 on a day when the Vikings banged out 22 hits. In response, the coach juggled her lineup, moving hot-hitting King to leadoff. It accomplished two things: it gave Rye Neck’s best hitter as many at-bats as possible, and it allowed the Panthers’ best bunters, Miller and Dunne, to move her along if it came to that.
In the playoff quarterfinals, outfielder Jackie DeCicco clubbed two homers against seventh seed Dobbs Ferry to lead the way. The locals’ 12-1 pasting of third-seeded North Salem meant the Panthers dropped 27 runs on the opposition and gave up just one on the way to North Rockland. Then, with Valhalla coming back against fifth-seeded Ardsley in the other semifinal, it set up a Hertz-Avis softball final to decide Queen of the Hill. For the first time since 2002, that title belongs to the Hornidge Road Gang.
Rye Neck will meet Marlboro Central, the champions of Section 9, Thursday afternoon at Rhinebeck High School, post-press time.