CLIFTON PARK The Guilderland-Bethlehem softball rivalry took on an added dimension Friday at Clifton Common.
The neighboring schools battled each other for the Section II Class AA title. When the dust settled, Guilderland emerged as the champion with an 8-3 victory over Bethlehem.
It was Guilderland's first Sectional title since 1998, but coach Lou Marino had some mixed feelings.
"I coach a lot of those (Bethlehem) girls in summer ball," said Marino. "It's hard, but I'm glad they were there and they were happy for us. It's kind of a unique situation."
"Besides the fact that we play them twice a season in league play, the girls know each other very well from playing together during the summer," said Bethlehem coach Karen Gentile. "So you have to come up with something new when you meet in a game like this, and unfortunately it didn't work out for us. Hats off to Guilderland. They played a great game ... and they're a great bunch of girls."
Guilderland (14-7) took a quick 2-0 lead on Bethlehem (13-8) in the first inning. Tori Greco smacked a leadoff single and scored on Gabriella Marino's double to center field. Mikayla Shade made a lunging catch to deny Mallory Harrigan a double, but she couldn't reach Jenna Cubello's drive, which drove in Marino for the second Lady Dutch run.
Bethlehem sophomore pitcher Emma Downing settled down after the early flurry, but things fell apart for her in the bottom of the third inning. Following consecutive singles by Greco, Marino and Harrigan, Cubello drove all three runners on a single and an error to give Guilderland a 5-0 lead.
Gentile replaced Downing with Megan Sullivan, who allowed Cubello to score on a groundout by Abi Peck. But Sullivan got out of the inning without further damage.
"They hit her very well," Gentile said of Downing, who pitched in Bethlehem's playoff wins over Niskayuna and Shenendehowa. "Emma was our pitcher in Sectionals, and we went with the hot hand. It didn't happen for her in that game."