By MICHAEL KELLY
ST. JOHNSVILLE -- Dueling strong pitching efforts highlighted Friday's Western Athletic Conference North Division softball game between Canajoharie and Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville, as the Lady Cougars' Shy Logan and the Wolves' Leann Clark combined for 18 strikeouts.
But, in the end, Canajoharie prevailed with a 3-1 victory and the two clubs finished the regular season as co-champions of the division.
"We wanted to win it outright, but hats off to Canjo," said OESJ head coach Dan Hart. "They beat us."
"Everyone worked together, kept their heads up all game, and played solid defense," said Canajoharie head coach Bridget Anderson. "That's what wins games."
For most of the afternoon, the two clubs could do little at the plate. Before each squad had two hits in the final inning, Clark and Logan combined to allow only four hits.
Both pitchers went the distance, with Logan picking up the victory after striking out seven and allowing one earned run.
Clark took the loss despite striking out 11 and allowing only two earned runs.
"She did a nice job of keeping us in the game, but one run's not going to get it done," Hart said.
While the Wolves' offense was dormant most of the game, the club's few chances were snuffed out by a combination of Logan and Canajoharie shortstop Bri Slater.
The senior infielder made several key plays, including starting a rally-killing double play in the seventh inning.
"She's always our lifesaver," Logan said.
"[Slater] is very important for us every game," said Anderson. "All of our seniors are, though."
Slater did not register a hit in the contest, but scored two runs. She reached base via a walk and an error.
For the Lady Cougars, Katie Towse had two hits and scored an insurance run in the seventh inning on Lauren Balfe's RBI single. Logan also added a hit.
Clark had two singles for OESJ, while Sam Lacoppola had a double.
Both teams scored in the first inning, as Slater scored for Canajoharie on an OESJ error, and the Wolves answered with an RBI single from Megan Bradt to score Caitlin Handy.
The Lady Cougars went ahead for good in the third inning when Slater scored on a wild pitch.
"Everyone picked each other up and we made the plays when we needed to," Anderson said.
Both clubs finished 8-4 in league play, and Logan and Slater said winning the regular season's final game was a nice momentum booster for their club.
"This definitely builds our confidence," said Slater. "We came into the game knowing we could do it. We kept our heads, kept our composure, and played as a team. This is a big win for us."
"We knew they were going to come out hard, but we kept our heads and did good," Logan said.
While OESJ missed its chance to take sole possession of first place in the division, Hart said he could not fault his club. The young Wolves began the season with little experience and a short roster -- only nine players suited up for OESJ against Canajoharie.
"In the beginning of the season, we weren't very good," said Hart. "Back when we were practicing in the gym, we had to break it down to how to throw and catch. If someone told me then that we'd be champs, co-champs, I'd have taken it in a heartbeat."
Both clubs will be back in action Monday in the WAC Cup semifinals. OESJ -- the North Division's top seed -- will play host to Middleburgh, while Canajoharie will travel to Duanesburg.
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