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first_img Published on May 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Ryne: rjgery@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+ Jenna Caira and Kelly Saco have worked on the play all year. At practice, Caira, the pitcher, covered first base on a groundball to the right side of the infield, and the first baseman, Saco, flipped to her for the out. But the situation never presented itself in a game until Saturday.It was during the team’s biggest game of the year the Big East’s championship game that Caira and Saco had to execute the rare play to get the final out of the game with the tying run on third base against Louisville. It was the second time in the game that Caira had been on the receiving end of a putout at first base from Saco. And the last one clinched the Big East tournament championship for Syracuse.‘It has never happened at all the entire season,’ Caira said in a phone interview Saturday. ‘And funny enough, it happened twice in one game.’Behind great defense and Caira’s ability to control Louisville’s hitters, the third-seeded Orange (44-11) defeated the No. 5 Cardinals (36-18) 1-0 to repeat as Big East tournament champions. SU had the bounces go its way and held onto a one-run lead throughout the game to claim the conference crown for a second straight year. With the win, the Orange earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history.SU will learn its opponent when the tournament field is announced Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe team advanced behind junior pitcher Jenna Caira’s complete-game shutout. Caira was effective but far from dominant in the win. She didn’t record a single perfect inning and had to work out of multiple jams to beat the Cardinals.SU broke a scoreless tie in the third inning. Kelly Saco led off the inning with a double to the left-center field wall. Saco appeared to waste a golden scoring opportunity when she was called out on a pickoff play by Louisville.Saco immediately made a juggling motion with her hands and complained that the infielder didn’t have control of the ball.‘I was thinking the umpire’s blind because the second baseman obviously didn’t have possession of the ball,’ Saco said. ‘I mean I was just like, ‘Are you kidding me?”She began to run to the dugout but returned to second base when she realized head coach Leigh Ross was arguing the call. Ross said she asked for the umpires to discuss the call, claiming the official at second base didn’t have a clear view of the play.After meeting, the umpires ruled Saco was safe at second. She then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Morgan Nandin and scored on an RBI-single by Stephanie Watts.The Orange tried to add to that lead later in the inning when Lacey Kohl singled up the middle. Ross sent Watts home to score, but she was easily thrown out at the plate by Louisville center fielder Kristin Austin.Austin would throw out Morgan Nandin on a similar play later in the game.‘I knew the grass was going to be wet (from rain earlier in the day), so I was kind of thinking, ‘Well, I’m just going to be extra-aggressive,’ Ross said. ‘ … I’m just going to push the envelope and see what happens.’The foiled attempts added pressure for Caira in the circle. That pressure was apparent in the fourth inning after a bunt single gave Louisville runners at the corners with one out.Ross called time to calm Caira and the defense down. As they met in the circle, Louisville players waved towels in the dugout and the home crowd came to life.The next batter hit a chopper to Caira. The pitcher checked the runner at third and then threw to first. But the ball went off the runner’s back and skipped into right field. Caira thought the Orange had just lost its lead.‘I was freaking out at first,’ Caira said. ‘The fact that it ricocheted and went into the outfield, I got really nervous.’But the umpires called the runner out for interference and SU kept its lead. And Caira forced the next batter to ground out to end the inning.She ran into trouble again the seventh after getting two quick outs. Louisville put runners on the corners, and Caira became frustrated with the tight stroke zone.But she responded once again and forced a ground ball to the right side when Louisville was down to its final out. And all the frustration disappeared as Caira secured the toss from Saco while covering first base.‘It was an amazing feeling,’ Caira said. ‘Just being able to get that last out, it was a relief and it felt really good.’rjgery@syr.educenter_img Commentslast_img


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