Falconer bats too much for Fredonia
Sometimes a gameplan doesn’t pan out the way a coach draws it up.
That was the case Friday for Fredonia softball coach Joe Pucciarelli.
Before the game, Pucciarelli said if his team was going to win, they were going to have to stop Falconer’s first three batters in the batting order.
Those batters – Jenna Fellows, Shannon McFall and Brianna McFall – combined for six hits and the bottom part of the order also contributed in leading the Lady Falcons to a 7-3 victory in the Section 6 Class B-2 semifinal game.
“We said they are going to have to take it from us. We aren’t going to give it to them,” Pucciarelli said. “They earned it. They beat us fair and square. They hit the ball and took advantage of opportunities. They have a nice team.”
The Lady Hillbillies got off to a good start as they scored three runs off one hit and three errors in the bottom of the second inning. Karlie Schwertfager reached on an error and scored when Katie Webster’s bunt caused Falconer to throw the ball around and commit two errors on the play. Webster advanced to third base on the play. After Nicole Szymczak was hit by a pitch, McKenna Leid followed with a two-run single for the 3-0 lead.
“Those are two eighth graders right there,” Pucciarelli said of Webster and Leid.
The Lady Golden Falcons responded in the top of the third as Fredonia had a couple of errors to let the visitors back into the game.
Fellows, Shannon McFall and Brianna McFall each had consecutive one-out singles to load the bases. Shannon Gunnell followed with a one-run single to plate Fellows and Abby Courtney plated two runs with a double.
“That was huge because we started to put our shoulders down a bit after the second inning,” Falconer coach Paul Lombardo said. “We got those three runs back and I saw their spirits pick up a little bit.”
From there, Falconer pitcher Abby Courtney was nearly lights out. After an 11-pitch third inning, she struck out five batters and gave up just one hit in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning.
“She is coming off an illness and she has been throwing well since she came back,” Lombardo said.
“She is a good pitcher,” Pucciarelli added. “She is only a sophomore. This league is going to get better. We have to work hard.”
Falconer took its first lead in the sixth inning. With two outs, No. 9 hitter Kaylee Keith belted a triple to left field and scored on a Fellows RBI single.
“Kailee has been a great defensive player for us and has gotten key hits for us,” Lombardo said. “She put the bat on the ball in the right spot and that really pumped us up. We have tried to make the kids toward the bottom of the lineup realize they are just as key as the players at the top.”
The visitors added some insurance runs in the top of the seventh as Katie Hines hit a bases-clearing double for a 7-3 advantage.
Fredonia did not go down quietly though.
In their final at-bat, the Lady Hillbillies loaded the bases with one out. However, after a Baylee Tarnowski pop out, Bre Dahn sent a blooper into right field. Falconer right fielder Kaylei Russell charged in and made a diving catch to save at least two runs and end the game.
“Seeing how Fredonia loaded the bases and we needed a special catch to win it, that was very special,” Lombardo said. “At the beginning of the year, she was tentative in right field. As the season progressed, she has gotten better and better. She has played catcher the last three years and we converted to an outfielder and she is peeking at the right time.”
Brianna McFall finished with three hits and Hines had two with an RBI double.
As for Fredonia, its season ends with a stellar 16-4 record.
“At the beginning of the year, if you told me we would be 16-4, who would have thought that,” Pucciarelli asked. “They have earned it. We earned it and they worked hard the whole year. I am so proud of this team. The team we have, it was a building year. They aren’t happy with this loss. But you know what, that’s good. You don’t want to feel this way again and it should make us work harder.”
The loss ended the high school careers of Fredonia seniors Nicole Szymczak and Karlie Schwertfager.
“They were here every day,” Pucciarelli said. “They were good leaders and I wish them the best.”