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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
ELMIRA — Inning after inning zeroes kept popping up on the scoreboard.

Elmira’s Payton Ross and Horseheads’ Megan Wolf kept the offenses in check all afternoon in a key divisional matchup.

In the sixth inning things started innocently enough as Elmira got a walk by Ryleigh Ogden and Addisyn Chorney was hit by a pitch. Suddenly with two runners on base Abby Lambert came to the plate with two outs and with one swing of the bat the scoreless tie ended as she drove home two runs with a single as the Express won 2-0.

“Biggest hit of my career,” Lambert said. “Against Horseheads, yeah.”

For Lambert she just wanted to put the ball in play somewhere.

“I was so nervous,” she said. “I just wanted to hit the ball, I didn’t care where it went, I just wanted to hit the ball.”

After the walk and hit by pitch the Express got a sacrifice bunt by Ava Sherman to put the runners on second and third. Lambert hit the ball past a diving infielder with what proved to be the winning run.

For Elmira pitcher Payton Ross the runs took some pressure off her on the mound.

“It was great, it meant I could have a little leeway and not have another heart attack out there like I did the few innings before,” Ross said.

Ross threw a four-hitter, striking out seven in the game. She allowed no runs and walked three in the game.

Wolf threw a three hitter, striking out 11 and walking five, while allowing the two runs.

For Elmira the win was special, especially having it come on a game to promote suicide awareness as Elmira wore purple jerseys for the game.

“It’s so special, especially on suicide awareness day,” Ross said.

For Ross a scoreless game is always tough, but especially when you are facing a pitcher like Wolf, who pitched Horseheads to a sectional title a year ago.

“It is tough, especially against Megan because she’s such a strong pitcher,” Ross said. “It’s basically like pitcher vs. pitcher at that point.”

Earlier this year Ross threw a no hitter through seven innings against state-ranked Chenango Valley, but fell in the eighth inning. For the Elmira senior she knew that this game would be different as the team was playing a big rival.

“It’s Horseheads, and everybody knows what Horseheads is to us, it’s a rival game,” Ross said. “I was confident in our team.”

While the game was scoreless until the sixth both teams had plenty of chances.

Ross set the Blue Raiders down in order in the first, two of the outs by strikeout. Wolf answered by striking out the side in the bottom of the first.

Ross had another 1-2-3 inning in the second and in the bottom of the second Wolf gave up a lead-off walk, but got the next three outs, two by strikeout.

Rachel Lunger had a one-out single for Horseheads in the third. Kristen Cole reached on a dropped third strike and Lunger moved to third base. Katie Hinman walked to load the bases with just one out, but Ross induced an inning ending double play.

Madisen Jones got a one-out walk for Elmira in the third and she moved to second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch. After an out was recorded Ross walked putting runners on the corner, but Wolf induced a pop out to end the threat.

Horseheads’ Sophia Bonnell bunted and reached on an error in the fourth and she moved to second on the error. Kailey McCormick walked with one out putting two runners on and a fielder’s choice put runners on second and third, but Ross got a groundout to end the threat.

MacKenzie Fusare singled for Elmira to start the bottom oft he fourth and Chorney walked with one out putting runners on first and second, but Wolf got two straight strikeouts to end the threat.

In the fifth Bella Giammichele singled for Horseheads and Lunger bunted her to second. Cole singled on a fly ball and Hinman walked to load the bases with just one out. A ground ball to the pitcher led Ross to throw out the runner at home and then Ross got a strikeout to end the inning.

Lily Cornacchio had a one-out walk in the bottom of the fifth, but Wolf got back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

Molly Wolf singled to leadoff the sixth for Horseheads, but after an out was recorded the inning ended on a double play by the Express defense.

After the two-run sixth inning by Elmira the Blue Raiders had one last chance, and Maddie Matkosky reached on an error to start the inning, but Ross didn’t allow anything else as she closed out the game.

For Ross it was tough battling in a game where both teams had runners on base and chances throughout, and there were plenty of nerves.

“Very high (nerves),” Ross said. “But, we had to keep our composure. It’s very tough, but it’s whatever team is going to make an error first.”

Elmira’s players knew they just had to stay focused throughout.

“I think we kept our composure so well with having so many people on base,” Lambert said. “I think at that point you just have to trust the process, trust your team, know what you have.”

With the win the Elmira girls even up the division standings. Elmira, Corning and Horseheads are all 1-1 in the division. Elmira hosts Corning Thursday. Horseheads meets both Elmira and Corning next week.
IN TOP PHOTO: Elmira’s Payton Ross delivers a pitch Tuesday. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES

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