Horace Mann was at its worst in its games against Fieldston this season, losing twice in run-rule fashion. In both of those contests, the Lions had a chance to break through with runners in scoring position and never did.
That all changed Wednesday on the brink of elimination.
Ashley Gerber broke a tie in the fourth inning with a two-run single and No. 5 Horace Mann only built its lead from there in a stunning, 8-2 upset win over top-seed Fieldston in the NYSAISAA softball semifinals at Hackley in Tarrytown. For the second straight year, the Lions will be in the championship game, this time against Holy Child at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Manhattanville College.
Horace Mann is headed back to the NYSAISAA final after beating Fieldston, 8-2, on Wednesday.
“The difference between this one and the last two was we got the hit today,” Mann coach Ray Barile said.
A few of them. Paige McMahon had an RBI triple in the fifth inning and Kaitlyn Puglia, Mia Farinelli and Jamie Gropper all had run-scoring hits in the seventh to blow things open for Horace Mann (10-4).
Farinelli was excellent in the circle, giving up just two runs on two hits – both to Princeton-bound star Kate Miller – with four strikeouts in seven innings. It was her second straight excellent performance in this tournament after she twirled a gem in the quarterfinals against Riverdale on Sunday.
“The last three games, Mia has a lot of her pitches working,” Barile said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. She has a better understanding about when to throw what.”
Puglia was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, three runs scored and a pair of doubles and Paige McMahon went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Puglia also robbed Savannah Stern of a sure double near the 225-foot sign in center field and doubled off Miller at second base.
Last year, Horace Mann was the favorite to win its first NYSAISAA title since 2006 after winning the Ivy League title, but the Lions were upended in the championship game by Poly Prep. Now, Mann is the underdog, something of a Cinderella story as the No. 5 seed.
“My girls, they were 10 times more excited than they were last year,” Barile said about after the semifinal game. “They were going crazy, but Mia and Cara both said, hey we still have work to do.”
The coach admitted there were nerves heading into a game with Poly last year. His group is feeling loose heading into Thursday’s matchup with Holy Child, though. Mann fell to HC, 4-2, in a non-league game this year.
“I think they’re focused,” Barile said of his players. “They’re all looking forward to playing tomorrow – big time.”
Holy Child 3, Poly Prep 2: Kathleen Samuelson had the game-winning RBI double in the seventh inning with the game tied at 2 for No. 3 Holy Child, which advances to face No. 5 Horace Mann in the championship game 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Manhattanville College.
Samuelson was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and gave up just one earned run on two hits with seven strikeouts to end Poly Prep’s unprecedented streak of six consecutive NYSAISAA titles. The Blue Devils finish their season 11-3.
Horace Mann, Holy Child, Holy Child, NYSAISAA, NYSAISAA, NYSAISAA, Fieldston, the Lions, championship game, championship game, Mia Farinelli, Manhattanville, Paige McMahon, Poly Prep, Mann coach Ray Barile, Kaitlyn Puglia