Three-run inning lifts Falconer past Dunkirk, 3-2

The Dunkirk Lady Marauders (4-4) were able to overcome an early deficit, but in the end, one big inning allowed the Falconer Lady Golden Falcons (6-2, 5-2) to pull ahead for a 3-2 victory in a windy CCAA West I softball matchup played at Dunkirk’s Promenschenkel Stadium.

After spotting Falconer a 1-0 lead on a wild pitch in the first inning, Dunkirk used a combination of small ball and timely hitting to pull ahead in the third.

Dunkirk’s Emilee Hanlon started the action in the third with a two-out single, followed by a ringing RBI double to the left-center gap by Maddy Crandall.

Crandall eventually stole third. Next up, Riley Drummond drew a walk on a 3-2 count and never stopped as she rounded first and pushed hard for second base as Falconer’s catcher, Kaylei Russell, threw the ball back to the pitcher. By the time the pitcher spun and threw the ball to second in an attempt to catch Drummond, it was too late. Drummond was safe at second and Crandall, seeing the play develop from third base, broke for home and scored easily.

“Thats a called ‘Play.’ We have a signal for that,” Dunkirk’s coach John Sliwa said. “She picked up the sign late because she didn’t realize it was ball four. I called it on the pitch, I usually call it with a 3-2 count. It was a great job by Selena Ruiz who was the first base coach on the play. She realized it and got Riley’s attention once it was declared as a walk. It’s something we worked on in the gym since we have been indoors a lot.”

The score remained at 2-1 through the middle innings as both pitchers dominated.

Then, Falconer took advantage as Drummond began to falter in the circle.

Through five innings, Drummond allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven. But in the sixth inning, something appeared to be different. Falconer’s Jenna Fellows led off the sixth with a double and immediately scored when Brianna McFall followed with an RBI triple in the next at-bat. McFall scored when the third batter of the inning, Abby Courtney, singled to left field.

Drummond managed to get the next two batters to fly out before walking Kaylee Keith, who proved to be the final batter Drummond faced.

“Her back tightened up,” Sliwa said of Drummond. “(Thursday) was an 11-inning game and she threw the last six. I could see it. She didn’t complain, but you could see the result. She started leaving the ball over the plate. When I asked her if she was tightening up, she was almost in tears. I shouldn’t have to rely on an eighth-grade pitcher to carry my team, but these girls aren’t eighth graders anymore.”

Sarah Hanlon entered in relief of Drummond and struck out the final batter of the inning, but by then, the damage was done.

The Lady Marauders failed to get a hit in the final three innings and never threatened Falconer’s lead.

“They went ahead and battled (Friday),” Falconer coach Dan Morales said. “The conditions didn’t help at all, but Dunkirk was facing those conditions too so we can’t worry about that. I told them, ‘Two runs isn’t going to beat us.’ We had one bad inning that contributed to two runs (for Dunkirk) with two outs.

“When the top of the lineup came up in the sixth inning I told them, ‘We are going to need some clutch hitting,'” Morales continued. “They went ahead and delivered with two runs. They knew they needed runs and put up two. They really battled and it was fun.”

Courtney dominated in the circle for Falconer. She allowed only four hits while striking out seven and walking one in the complete-game victory.

“The only time (Courtney got down on herself) during the game was when she bobbled a ball early, but it was a tough play with the ball spinning and the wind,” Morales said. “Everything was thrown for strikes. Her changeup and offspeed stuff was going where she wanted. When she left pitches high they carried with the wind, but that didn’t hurt us. I’m very proud of her and Kaylei Russell behind the plate calling the game. That’s what we needed.”

Drummond was equally impressive before back issues derailed what was shaping up to be an excellent performance by the eighth grader. Drummond threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking none.

Hanlon pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief, striking out one while allowing no hits and no walks.

Crandall led the Lady Marauder offense with a double, a stolen base an RBI and a run.

Emilee Hanlon was 1 for 3 in the loss with a run scored.

“I liked the way we attacked our at-bats,” Sliwa said. “Abby (Courtney) is a good pitcher and we knew it coming in. It was a great game. My kids are continuing to work hard and aren’t giving up. We are young, but we are getting better. I have no problem playing one-run games every day.”

Dunkirk will host Fredonia at Promenschenkel Stadium on Monday.