HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE — North Collins’ own Nicole Torrey gets set to a fire a ball in for the CCAA softball team on her home field during the high school season. CCAA lost to ECIC, which then fell to NFL/NO in the showcase final. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
WESTERN NEW YORK — If it was not for a slugger in an earlier game, a different team would have been crowned champion, during the Underclassmen Showcase on Aug. 18 in North Collins.
With two down and the bases loaded, Stephanie Bielec of Niagara Falls came through, with a walk-off hit, to break a tie, in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting her Niagara Frontier League/Niagara Orleans all-star team ahead of the Monsignor Martin/Buffalo Public/Private Schools all-stars 3 – 2, during the semifinals.
Earning a spot in the championship against the Erie County Interscholastic Conference all-stars, NFL/NO used the momentum from the game prior to gave itself an early 6 – 0 cushion and eventually win the title game 7 – 5, during the second annual baseball and softball showcase event.
“When they walked [Olivia Denny from Barker] to load the bases, I just knew I was going to try my best,” Bielec said, about her game-winning hit, in the semifinals. “I got a change-up. I just waited on it and took it where I thought I could put it.”
Leading off the ninth inning, Julia Snitzer of Kenmore East scored the game-winning run, off of Bielec’s single, after moving herself into scoring position, during the previous at-bat.
“It was pretty exciting, knowing that it was two outs. We needed 1 run and I was on third,” said Snitzer, who waited through five batters, after she singled. “I wasn’t getting on all game, so it was a timely hit.”
Alley Cutting of Grand Island was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The Lady Viking earned a base-on-ball, a hit and a run scored, while striking out seven batters in four innings pitched, for NFL/NO, during the two contests.
“There were a lot of talented girls here, today. I didn’t do anything more special than any others did,” said Cutting, about her MVP honors. “I go out onto the field and do what I do, as they all do what they do: play with heart and guts.”
The runs came quickly, for the NFL/NO girls, during the softball title game, as the first seven batters got a hit, to reach base.
Ashley Bower and Taylor Fry of Royalton/Hartland and Gabrielle Johns of Kenmore East batted in Niagara Frontier Player of the Year Toni Polk of Niagara Falls, Gerri Ann Orfano of Niagara Falls, Cutting and Taylor Fry of Royalton/Hartland, for a 4 – 0 lead. Kelsee Soule of Albion drove in a runner and scored off of a single from Polk, in the second, to extend the team lead to 6 – 0.
ECIC cut the deficit in half, during the fifth. The Rachels connected, as Rachel Funk of West Seneca East sent home Rachel Johnson of Orchard Park on a single.
Julia Sortisio of Lancaster then sent a shot deep into left center field, for a 2-run homer, to take a 6 – 3 score into the sixth. A sacrifice fly from Charlotte Miller of Kenmore West sent Bielec home, to extend the NFL/NO team’s game lead to 7 – 3.
ECIC inched closer, during the final two innings. Brittany Schuster of West Seneca East drove in Meagan Mingle of Williamsville South on a double, in the eighth, and Cleveland Hills player Haille James’ 1-run double in the ninth sent home ECIC IV Pitcher of the Year Jill Murray of Eden, but it was too little, too late.
The day began with the ECIC’s winning against the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Athletic Association 13 – 3, in the semifinal.
ECIC’s offense was led by West Seneca West’s Laura Krawczyk, who finished 3-for-3 with a RBI and run scored, and Lancaster’s Olivia Jankowski, with two hits, 2 runs and one RBI, and Sortisio, two hits, run scored, while ECIC II Co-Pitcher of the Year Amanda Metz of Iroquois and Allison Block of Starpoint struck out five and six batters, respectively, during two innings, each.
North Collins’ Beth Kibler steered CCAA at the plate with a double and two RBI, while CCAA I Player of the Year Alicia Deering of Fredonia and Cammie McCracken of Portville both had a hit and scored a run. Alyssa Hawn of Cassadaga Valley had three strikeouts in the circle, to lead the bullpen.
Also in NFL/NO’s first victory, hits came from Denny, Bielec and Bower, with Cutting’s leading the bullpen. Elizabeth Bourne of Nichols and Francesca Guigno of Mount Saint Mary were among the pitchers sharing time in the circle for the Catholic and Buffalo Schools team.
Hits were delivered by Shay Swiatek of Orchard Park, Machala Andrews of Lake Shore, Carolyn Hoffman of Holy Angels and Julie Panepinto of City Honors.
The NFL/NO baseball team won the championship on Saturday, helping those leagues’ all-stars sweep the weekend, in front of at least a dozen college coaches and scouts.
“When you’re playing in high school or in summer leagues you’re limited to the amount of exposure that you get,” said Starpoint Head Coach Joe Hill, who joined Rich Mattison on the ECIC staff. “There’s only so much room in the paper, so to get all of the best players in Western New York makes it easy for coaches to come out.”