Lead Stories, Sports

Brunetto, Wildcats edge Panthers

Sometimes, all you need to win a ballgame is a pitcher intent on throwing up zeros. In the Class B softball section finals on May 26, Westlake found just that, as they rode an impressive performance from senior lefty Ali Brunetto to a 3-0 victory over the top-seeded Rye Neck Panthers to claim the school’s ever Section I crown.

Brunetto, who came into Saturday’s game at North Rockland High School riding a 14-inning scoreless streak in the postseason, continued her dominance against the Panthers, fanning eight batters and allowing just three hits as she guided her team to the Class B crown.

Olivia Dunne throws a pitch during a regular season game for the Panthers. Dunne pitched well in the Section I final, but Westlake topped Rye Neck 3-0. Photo/Mike Smith

According to Rye Neck coach Joan Spedafino, the southpaw has made great strides since the Panthers handed her a 7-2 loss back on April 30.

“I think [Brunetto] was showing more confidence, she had a lot more movement and she was hitting her spots,” Spedafino said, “and I think any time you can get that from a lefty in this sport, it forces batters to work a lot harder.”

Brunetto’s counterpart, Rye Neck ace Olivia Dunne, was tough as well, although the Wildcats were able to make the most of a few miscues in the third inning to score three runs on a pair of triples by Daniella Mulvey and Kelly Pierce. Spedafino believes that had her Panthers escaped the inning unscathed, they would have had the chance to possibly figure Brunetto out in extra innings.

“Nobody’s talking about Dunne, but she pitched a nice game too and it all came down to that one inning,” the coach said. “If we could have gotten her out of that, I was confident about our chances in extras.”

With the win, Westlake (16-4) will move on to represent Section I in the state tournament, which will kick off on May 31, after press time, at North Rockland High School. Their opponent will be Section IX champion Rondout Valley. The Ganders, seeded No. 7 in the Section IX tournament eliminated both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to earn the right to play against Westlake in the sub-regional round.

Panthers, with the loss, finish the season with a 19-4 record, and while the ending may have been a disappointment, Spedafino was quick to reassure the squad that the season, as a whole, was anything but.

“The first thing we told them after the game was how proud we were of them; only two teams in Class B make it here and we were one of them,” she said. “This was a great group of girls, they worked really hard this year and it was nothing less than a great experience.”

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