Team effort lifts Lady Billies into next round
Fredonia coach Joe Pucciarelli has been waiting all season for any player on his roster to “grab the limelight” and shine.
In the Section 6 Class B-2 quarterfinal game Tuesday, multiple players did just that in lifting the No. 3 Lady Hillbillies past No. 7 JFK, 4-2.
Katie Webster had a hit with two crucial RBIs, Tess Schober and Erin Ruffino did their job as pinch runners and Baylee Tarnowski did what she had to do in the circle for the win.
Early on, JFK pitcher Kayla Williams was dealing as she struck out four in the first two innings.
“In our league, she would have been the second hardest thrower,” Pucciarelli said. “She didn’t throw real hard, but it was harder than what we have seen.”
Momentum was in JFK’s favor early. In the third inning, with two outs, Fredonia loaded the bases, but Williams got Alicia Deering to ground out to end the threat.
“You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get,” Pucciarelli said. “That was a big opportunity. I thought maybe we could get a wild pitch out of this. It gave us confidence at the same time. The girls knew we could get to her.”
Then in the top of the fourth, the visitors took a 1-0 lead as Williams reached on an error and scored on an RBI single from Jaclyn Smith.
“We had the momentum,” JFK coach Chris Mahalic said. “This is a game of momentum and it can switch just like that.”
And it did.
Fredonia answered back in the bottom of the fourth as Bre Dahn was hit by a pitch with one out. Schober came in as a courtesy runner, promptly stole third and scored on an RBI single from Karlie Schwertfager. Webster drove in Schwertfager with a bunt single for a 2-1 edge.
“We have been in this position all year,” Pucciarelli said of being behind. “We have been down 11-5 and 6-1. I don’t think they ever get nervous. We just waited for our time.”
The Lady Hillbillies added much needed insurance runs in the sixth inning as Schwertfager drew a one-out walk and was replaced by Ruffino as a pinch runner. Ruffino stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a fielder’s choice by Webster to increase the lead, 3-1. Webster eventually scored on a single by Morgan Genovese for a 4-1 advantage.
In its final at-bats, JFK made things interesting as Emily Frajdofer reached on an error and scored on a triple by Smith. With one out, Etuinity Macucci hit a slow roller to Tarnowski, who fired to first base for the force out. With Smith breaking for home, Fredonia first baseman Bre Dahn fired home to Maddy Crandall, who applied the tag on Smith for the final out.
“We went for it,” Mahalic said. “Sometimes you have to go for it and it didn’t pay off. It happens.”
Tarnowski was the winning pitcher as she gave up just four hits and one walk while striking out two.
“She did what she had to do,” Pucciarelli said. “She pitched a Baylee Tarnowski game. She walked one girl. She puts the ball in play and we make plays behind her.”
Fredonia now hosts No. 6 Falconer on Friday at 4:45. The teams split the regular season. Fredonia won the first contest 13-11 and Falconer won the latest meeting, 5-2, as the Lady Golden Eagles scored three unearned runs in the game.
“It’s going to be nice playing them here,” Pucciarelli said. “We will take our chances and go from there.”