The history that Herkimer County Community College’s softball team is up against every year does not frighten the Generals.
In fact, HCCC coach PJ Anadio said his roster welcomes the challenge.
Herkimer’s nationally-ranked Generals proved that Friday at Corning Community College in Corning, sweeping Genesee Community College in a pair of National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Region IIIA championship games to advance to the program’s eighth consecutive national tournament.
The No. 3-ranked Generals (45-6) defeated GCC 11-2 and 12-7, extending the program’s string of region titles that began in 2012 and keeping the Cougars from forcing a decisive Game 3 on Saturday.
Anadio said about 10 former HCCC softball players made the trip to the Corning campus — three hours southwest of Utica — to support the players following in their footsteps.
The NJCAA Division III tournament begins May 23 at the McQuillan Softball Complex in Rochester, Minnesota.
"Our kids know that they have to carry the torch," said Anadio, whose Generals are on a 22-game winning streak. "They know they have to put in the work and not ride the coattails of previous teams. … They also know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot, and they’re prepared for it."
On Friday, HCCC faced a little adversity when GCC (15-20) led 4-0 through two innings of Game 2. Freshman Ciel Iida, a left-handed pitcher from Tokyo, relieved Taylor Betz in the fourth and limited Genesee to two hits and three runs the rest of the way to win her eighth game.
Herkimer scored all 12 of its runs after the third — including a five-run fifth inning — to advance to the nationals in comeback fashion.
"Ciel comes in and gives us a different look," Anadio said. "She has really filthy movement. … She really pounds the zone and keeps them off balance."
HCCC collected 15 hits in Game 2. Natasha Holt, Vani Patel (four RBIs) and Brooke Snyder each had three of them. Holt, Patel and Jenna Hogan (three RBIs) each hit a home run.
Game 1 was much different. Herkimer never trailed, leading 4-2 before exploding for a seven-run fourth of a five-inning victory.
Sophomore Kali Puppolo was at it again. HCCC’s returning All-American pitcher had nine strikeouts in a one-hitter to improve to 16-2. Her rise ball and the changeup she throws at 60 miles per hour made it tough for the GCC bats to connect.
"They have to respect and honor it. Kali’s really tough to beat," Anadio said.
Hogan had two hits and four RBIs in Game 1, including a two-run homer over the centerfield fence that sparked the seven-run fourth inning. Jessica Johnston also went yard and had three RBIs.
West Canada Valley grad Taylor Zaino combined for three hits, four runs and worked a walk in the two games.
In baseball, No. 2-ranked Herkimer (31-4-2) lost to Erie Community College 6-4 in 12 innings of a NJCAA Region III final four contest Friday at Veterans Memorial Park in Little Falls.
It was Herkimer's first loss in 19 games.
HCCC will play No. 5-ranked Niagara County Community College (38-9) in an elimination game at noon Saturday. The winner will advance to the Region III final on Sunday. NCCC lost to Finger Lakes Community College (38-20) 2-1 on Friday.
Brian Forbes’ three-run homer in the fifth gave Herkimer a 3-1 lead. Erie (29-18) tied it with a two-run shot in the sixth, then used a bases-loaded walk to take a 4-3 lead in the seventh. Forbes responded at the bottom of the inning with a solo homer to knot it at 4, where the score would stand until ECC plated two in the 12th.
Contact reporter Marquel Slaughter at 315-792-4963 or follow him on Twitter @OD_Slaughter.