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Blue Raiders advance to STAC title game

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Jill Murray drove in three runs and Jenna Richmond delivered shutout relief for Horseheads in a 3-1 win over Susquehanna Valley.

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Clutch performances from a pair of seniors helped propel the Horseheads softball team to a 3-1 victory over Susquehanna Valley on Tuesday afternoon in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference semifinal in Horseheads.

Senior third baseman Jill Murray drove in all of the Blue Raiders’ runs with a two-run single in the first inning and an RBI single in the sixth. Right-hander Jenna Richmond, another senior, pitched 4 2/3 innings of four-hit, shutout relief to quiet the Sabers after they loaded the bases in each of the first three innings.

“The girls know they can rely on each other,” Horseheads coach Megan Zoerb said. “They’ve been working very hard defensively. They got into tight situations and they stayed calm. Even when we made a few mistakes, we were able to work out and our pitchers were confident in our defense, so that allowed them to do what they needed to do.”

The victory moved Horseheads (13-2) into the STAC final against defending Class A state champion Maine-Endwell (13-2) at 5 p.m. Wednesday at M-E. The Spartans were a 3-0 winner over Chenango Forks in Tuesday’s other semifinal. Horseheads and Maine-Endwell split their two regular-season games.

Gallery: Softball semifinals

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads' Jenna Richmond races toward first base,

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Horseheads’ Jenna Richmond races toward first base, beating a catch by Susquehanna Valley’s Hannah Haskell Tuesday at the Broad Street field in Horseheads.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Blue Raider Jill Murray waits for the ball to hit her

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Blue Raider Jill Murray waits for the ball to hit her mitt as Susquehanna Valley’s Sophie Keehle Tuesday during the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday in Horseheads.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo
Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for the STAC softball semifinal Tuesday.  Kelly Gampel / Staff Photo

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Susquehanna Valley loaded the bases in each of the first three innings and had exactly one run to show for it. Olivia Parker singled with one out in the third inning to score Hannah Haskell, who led off the frame with a single.

Sophia Pappas went 3-for-4 with a double for the Sabers, but in keeping with the day’s theme, none of those hits led to a run. Susquehanna Valley finished with an 8-4 edge in hits but stranded 13 runners.

“We definitely had opportunities,” SV coach Karen Bidwell said. “We just didn’t produce. We had hits, but not when we got them into scoring position.

“I think we were looking for something, looking for that pitch, and weren’t getting the one we were looking for maybe or let a good one go by and then had to swing at something that wasn’t going to be an ideal pitch and got under it and popped up or whatever.”

With one run in and the bases loaded in the third, Richmond took over in the circle for Juliana Rich, who walked five in 2 1/3 innings. Richmond escaped further damage, inducing a grounder to second base that Alli Richmond turned into a forceout at home before getting a strikeout to end the inning.

“Jenna did really good making sure she was hitting her spots and working out of tough counts — just making sure she’s putting the ball where we can field it on the ground so they’re not getting base hits,” Zoerb said. “Jenna worked hard. She did a really nice job throwing the ball.”

Horseheads gained the early edge in the first inning when Murray slipped a two-run single just through the infield to drive in Lacey O’Donnell and Alissa Rice. O’Donnell started the inning with a bunt single and Rice reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt.

“We probably should have gotten out of the first inning with no runs,” Bidwell said. “You start in the hole. A bunt they didn’t get to they should have gotten to any other time. They got two runs real quick. … That changes the momentum. The momentum’s going their way and we’re kind of in the hole.”

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Horseheads hosted Susquehanna Valley for a STAC softball semifinal Tuesday. Kelly Gampel / Staff Video

SV left runners on base in every inning except the seventh, when Richmond retired the Sabers in order. They had a chance to tie the score in the sixth after putting runners at second and third with two outs, but Richmond ended that threat with one of her four strikeouts. She didn’t walk a batter.

“I know (Jenna) from summer ball and she’s just a quality player and she’s a quality pitcher,” Bidwell said. “She’s also a great fielder. She made a couple great plays just jumping right off that mound. Trying to lay down a bunt and do something and she’s off the mound making those plays so fast.”

The Blue Raiders tacked on a run in the seventh. O’Donnell led off the inning with her second bunt single and took second on a bunt by Rice. With two outs, Murray singled over the shortstop to drive home O’Donnell.

“Jill worked hard at knowing that she needed to get the bat on the ball,” Zoerb said. “We’re not trying to hit bombs, we need to get some base hits. She just kept battling. She got into a couple of deep counts and was able to get the bat on the ball. Even if they weren’t the hits she wanted, they were the hits that we needed.”

Susquehanna Valley still left the field at Broad Street feeling good about itself. The Sabers are the top seed for the Section 4 Class B Tournament and will host No. 5 Waverly or No. 4 Oneonta in a semifinal at 4:30 p.m. May 25.

“I’m happy with how we battled today,” Bidwell said. “I think (Horseheads) is a phenomenal team. I think this helped us get ready for sectionals because it’s a great team and a Class AA school, so I’m glad we had the opportunity to play them.”

Horseheads is the top seed in Class AA and will host No. 4 Corning at 5 p.m. May 24 in a semifinal. The Blue Raiders have put up big offensive numbers for much of this season, but they have shown they can take low-scoring games as well.

“The girls know they just need to keep plugging away,” Zoerb said. “We’re going to face really good teams and all the teams are good offensively and defensively. As long as we keep putting the bat on the ball, we’ll be able to work our way out.”

Follow @SGAndrewLegare on Twitter.

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