MVP Giandalone sends Huskies to Finch’s 12U Pink title

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 23, 2024

By Sean Reilly

The pitcher-catcher relationship is a very important factor in a softball team’s success. 

On Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation, it also sparked the Empire State Huskies-Hotle to a tournament championship. 

The Huskies, who were seeded eighth in the 20-team playoffs, won four games on Sunday to capture the Jennie Finch’s Spring Invitational 12U Pink Division title in Flemington. 

The Huskies won the trophy with a 15-0 triumph over second-seeded Central Jersey Lightning 12U-Gizzi. Before that, they beat fifth-seeded PA Strikers 12U-Rodriguez, 4-2, in the semis.

But none of that could have been possible without a 4-0 win over top-seeded Blue Thunder-Heydet in the quarterfinals.

Siena Giandalone of Empire State Huskies was named 12U Finch’s Spring Invitational MVP.

In that game, the battery of pitcher Siena Giandalone and catcher Kaitlyn Horn led the Huskies to the pivotal victory. 

“We’ve worked together for three years,” Horn said. “It’s fun catching her and it’s nice having a pitcher that works hard and hits her spots all the time.” 

Giandalone, who was later named tournament MVP, allowed eight hits, with eight strikeouts and no walks. 

One of those base runners was thrown out stealing by Horn for the third out in the first inning. Horn had already staked the Huskies to a 2-0 lead by hitting a two-run single in the top of the inning.

The Pennsylvania-based Blue Thunder used singles by Lily Currie, Sydney Currie and Finley Fanelli to load the bases with nobody out in the second. 

Giandalone then induced a first-to-home force out before striking out the next two batters. 

In the bottom of the third, Blue Thunder loaded the bases with one out, but Giandalone again worked out of the jam with a strikeout and fly out to left field.

Siena Giandalone, left, taps gloves with Empire State Huskies’ catcher Kaitlyn Horn. 

Her clutch pitching continued in the fourth. Blue Thunder had runners on first and second with one out and the top of the order coming up. She struck out the next two batters to maintain the shutout. 

“It was kind of stressful,” Giandalone said. “I just had to throw strikes. Getting out of the first one gave me confidence. My fastball outside and screwball were working. I tried to hit the corners.” 

The Huskies, who began the busy day with a 4-1 first-round win over ninth-seeded Silver Bullets-Montoya, carried that momentum into the matchup against Blue Thunder.

Grace Hotle led off the quarterfinal by reaching on a strike three wild pitch. Lila Hanson was retired on a sacrifice bunt that sent Hotle to second. 

Emmie Dwyer singled to third base, with Hotle moving to third. Dwyer stole second base to put two runners in scoring position for cleanup hitter Horn. 

Horn delivered with a two-run single to center field. 

“That felt good,” said Horn, who finished 2-for-3. “It was exactly what I wanted, a ball right up the middle.”

The Huskies added another run in the second inning. Jenna Taylor led off with a walk and stole second. She also stole third, and continued home when there was no one at the base to receive the throw. 

Working with a 3-0 lead made it easier for Giandaline to pitch through the bases-loaded jams in back-to-back innings. 

“I didn’t really have to stress about it,” she said. “And I didn’t have to worry about walking a batter.” 

The Huskies scored their final run in the fourth inning. Giandalone hit a one-out infield single and following a ground out, Taylor supplied an RBI single to center field.

Dwyer also finished 2-for-3 for the Huskies.

Manning and Sydney Currie both finished with two hits for Blue Thunder, which concluded the weekend with a 4-1 record. It advanced to the quarterfinals by scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth to beat 17th-seeded Bombers Elite, 5-4, in the first round.

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