Maffei homer powers Valhalla into final
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VALHALLA, N.Y. – With the game tied and the tension rising, Valhalla was looking for someone to step up and deliver a clutch hit.
Danielle Maffei was ready.
Maffei blasted an inside-the-park three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to propel second-seeded Valhalla to a 6-3 win over sixth-seeded Kennedy Catholic in the Section 1 Class B semifinals on Thursday.
“Our lineup is very solid,” Valhalla coach John Hayes said. “Usually if one doesn’t get it done it’s somebody else who steps up and does get it done. (Danielle’s) been unbelievable all year. In year’s past she was always pulling the ball and all year long she worked on going inside out. She waited for the ball to get in and she was able to launch one.”
Kaylie Dymek and Brandi Coon started the inning with back-to-back hits to set up first and third. Maffei then turned on an inside fastball and sent a deep shot to left field.
“I was extremely nervous, but my teammates kept telling me to wait back on the ball,” said Maffei, who had two hits and four RBI. “When I don’t wait back it means I’m really anxious. The first pitch I hit in that at bat was a foul ball towards the left side. So I just kept telling myself to wait back and I got a good piece of it.”
Valhalla (18-4) freshman pitcher Sydni Holtz ran into trouble in the first inning when she allowed a leadoff triple to Ailish Hogan. Two runs then scored on a wild pitch to give the Gaels a 2-0 lead.
“I was very shaken in the beginning,” Holtz admitted. “Coming into a semifinal game I was nervous as a freshman. But I know that if I let the hitter hit the ball my team will back me up.”
“The wild pitch rattled us a little bit, but then she started hitting spots,” Hayes said. “Once she was able to get inside, work outside and mix a little off speed that kept them off balance and she let the defense do their job.”
Holtz tossed a complete game, struck out three, scattered five hits and walked two.
“You could tell she was kind of nervous, kind of rattled,” said Maffei, a senior left fielder. “But she settled in really well. I’m really proud of her.”
Valhalla scored two runs in the bottom of the first on RBI singles from Coon and Maffei. The Vikings went up 3-2 in the third on an RBI double from Dymek.
In the third inning, Kennedy’s Kaela Fields doubled and was knocked in by Jennifer Jamieson to tie the game at 3-3.
Kennedy (14-9) pitcher Molly Feeney allowed eight hits, walked two and fanned three.
Defending Section 1 Class B champion Valhalla advances to the finals where it will face top-seeded Rye Neck on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Heroes Field in Nanuet.
“We knew we had to work, we did not think we were going to get there automatically,” Maffei said of returning to the finals. “We’re not relaxing. We know that Rye Neck is going to be a tough game. We have faith in ourselves and we’re hard workers. We’re not going to give up.”
The Vikings defeated Rye Neck 3-1 during the regular season. Rye Neck boasts one of the top pitchers in Section 1 in Jessica Calvini.
“Jessica’s a very good pitcher and they have a very good team,” Holtz said. “We have to hit and play like we’ve been playing.”
“It’s going to take everything we’ve got,” Hayes said. “Calvini’s the best pitcher in Class B. They’re hungry, we’re hungry. Joan Spedafino runs an unbelievable program over there. I think she’s up to 450 or 500 wins. It’ll just be a great game to be at.”