Clinching the division
As Fredonia’s Katie Webster caught the final out on a fly ball to centerfield, Lady Hillbillies coach Joe Pucciarelli pumped his fist, gave a couple high fives and joined the players on the field in celebration.
Not only had they finally defeated arch-rival Dunkirk 2-1, but they also clinched their first CCAA Division 1 softball crown since 2009.
“We have been knocking on the door,” Pucciarelli said of beating Dunkirk. “We lost 5-4 last year and 6-5 this year. We were right there. I hope this gives us a nice seed for the playoffs.”
Dunkirk’s Joyce Bomasuto and Fredonia’s Baylee Tarnowski put on a pitching clinic. Bomasuto gave up just three hits, four walks and six strikeouts.
“Joyce pitched her tail off,” Pucciarelli said. “Baylee was just a little better.”
“It was a gutsy performance,” Dunkirk coach John Sliwa added of Bomasuto. “There is nothing you can take away from her. She is my senior inspirational leader. She is a born leader. She took the ball and has the will to win at all costs. I feel unfortunate for her. She pitched real well.”
Tarnowski gave up just four hits, one walk and six strikeouts.
“She was crisp today and she hit her spots,” Pucciarelli said.
The Lady Marauders opened the scoring in the first inning as Bomasuto singled and moved to second on a fielder’s choice. Bomasuto then ran to third on a passed ball and scored when Fredonia catcher Maddie Crandall’s throw got away from Tarnowski for a 1-0 lead.
Fredonia had a scoring chance in the third inning with bases loaded and one out with Alicia Deering at the plate. Deering hit a fly ball to centerfield. Dunkirk centerfielder Katie Hanlon made the catch and gunned down Fredonia’s Savannah Rivera at home, who was trying to tag from third base, for the final out of the inning.
“I sent her,” Pucciarelli said. “I didn’t know how many chances we were going to get. It’s high school softball. (Hanlon) has to make a good throw and she did. We had to take our chance.”
The Lady Hillbillies tied the score in the next inning. Tarnowski led off with a walk and was replaced by Rivera as a courtesy runner. Rivera moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Karlie Schwertfager followed and reached on an error as Rivera went to third. Rivera tried to score on the error, but was thrown out at home. On the play, Schwertfager moved to third, which proved to be pivotal. On the ensuing pitch, Schwertfager stole third. On the play, Dunkirk catcher Lacey Clark’s throw ended up in left field and Schwertfager raced home for the tie.
“I told (Rivera) to go and then told her to hold up, but she got excited and went the rest of the way,” Pucciarelli continued about the sequence. “Again, you have to make things happen in this game. There were times I had girls stealing third because you have to make things happen. That’s how I coach. That was huge when Karlie went to second.”
In the top of the fifth inning, the Lady Marauders had a chance to score with the bases loaded and Khee Nance at the plate with two outs. Tarnowski, however, got Nance to fly out to right field where Deering made one of her two excellent catches to end the threat.
“She got it, she just got under it a little bit,” Sliwa said. “We have to hit line drives in this weather. That was a huge turning point in the game.”
Fredonia scored the game-winning run in the sixth as Deering led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a fielder’s choice. She then scored on a wild pitch to give the home team their first lead of the game.
“I can’t say enough of the jump she had off third,” Pucciarelli said. “That ball didn’t roll too far away, but she got a great jump on that to score. We talk about the little things you have to do to win games – sacrifice bunts and moving the runner over.”
Tarnowski shut the door on the Lady Marauders in the seventh for the victory.
“It was a good ball game,” Sliwa said. “It was the way softball should be played. It basically came down to we made one more mistake than they did. Defensively we made quite a few of great plays. (Catcher) Lacey Clark – no one can run on her. She blocks the ball well and has a cannon. We are continuing to grow. Joyce is stepping up as a pitcher. She is coming along and pitched real well. She doesn’t mind getting in a jam or working out of a jam because she is tough.”
Fredonia’s outfield had a solid game with three putouts, including the final one of the game, in tough conditions.
“Our outfield has been great,” Pucciarelli said. “Katie Webster has come a long ways. The way this team has persevered the last four or five games has been amazing.”