GOWANDA — For the second season in a row, the Section VI Class B2 softball championship between the Fredonia Hillbillies and the Eden Raiders needed extra time, and a whole lot of it.
The game started on Thursday at Williamsville North High School, but a tie score of 2-2 and rain caused the game to be postponed until Friday evening in Gowanda.
For the Hillbillies, it turned out to be well worth the wait as they won 3-2 in 10 innings to capture their first sectional championship since 2015.
“It’s a really nice feeling to finally bring this blue patch home,” Fredonia head coach Jesse Beers said. “We set that goal for us at the beginning of the year, (that) we’re going to get that blue patch. Now that we’ve got it, we’re not just content to say that we’ve got it, and now we have business on Wednesday.”
After Fredonia got out of trouble in the bottom of the ninth, the international tiebreaker rule was put into play starting in the 10th inning which meant both teams would start with a runner on second base. In the top half of the 10th, Fredonia’s eventual winning run, Sarah Davis, took second base — but just like the entire game — her trip home was not easy.
First up was Lila Cameron who laced a shot that looked like a certain single before Eden centerfielder Alyssa Johnson made a terrific catch.
Davis was then moved along on the next at-bat by Jordan Lucas but at the cost of a second out.
Next up was Jaelyn Davis, who smacked a hard grounder to Eden shortstop Lydia Kobie who made a diving stop that would not be enough as Jaelyn Davis legged out the infield single to score Sarah Davis for the 3-2 Fredonia lead.
In the bottom half of the 10th, Fredonia was able to put the game in the hands of its best player, Jordan Lucas. Lucas had been phenomenal for Fredonia through the first nine innings, giving up just six hits, walking one batter and striking out eight, but the victory in the 10th was not just because of her pitches as she got a big helping hand from the field.
Fredonia catcher Kyleigh Waterman was able to throw out the Eden’s starting runner attempting to steal third before the first at-bat was done to give Fredonia a huge boost. Eden immediately put another runner back on second, thanks to a Hillbillies’ error, but Lucas was able to get two of Eden’s toughest hitters to pop out and then ground out to deliver Fredonia the sectional title after coming up short in the championship game the last three seasons.
“Second half she’s been lights-out,” Beers said of Lucas. “The growth that she’s shown from the beginning of the year to now. As we’ve moved on, she’s really started owning the circle. The maturity and poise she’s shown — especially in that last inning — I don’t know how much more you can ask out of a sophomore.”
On Thursday, Fredonia had its best chance to win the game in the fifth inning when trailing 1-0 since the first inning. Seventh-grader Callie Draggett sparked the offense with a leadoff single and eventually got to third base. While on third, Draggett saw an opportunity to score when a bad throw back to the pitcher gave her time to dart home, but Eden’s Kolbie was all over the mishap and made a great throw to the plate where a questionable out was called that sent Fredonia and its crowd into a frenzy.
“We talk about mental toughness from day one,” Beers said about facing adversity. “You can’t focus on one mistake and let that compound into two and three. You’ve got to have a short memory out here. It could have been really easy to come in here and be angry about how things went yesterday, but instead we were just very positive.”
Fredonia’s offense didn’t stop after the call and then Lucas came through for the team with a big two-out single with the bases loaded that scored Francesca Pucci and Sarah Davis. Lucas’ second single of the game was crucial to give Fredonia a 2-1 lead, but the Hillbillies sure would have liked the Draggett run as Eden managed to equalize in the bottom of the fifth.
The score stayed tied on Thursday night, which would cause five of Fredonia’s starters to miss a school band trip to Walt Disney World, but those five stayed to win a sectional patch. When Sarah Davis scored and Lucas closed the door in the bottom of the 10th it made it worth it.
“The girls were supposed to fly out for this band trip last night,” stated Beers. “Five of them are starters and very easily could have taken off and went. The family was not guaranteed refunds for this. There was a lot of money on the table for this and, as a team, they all said no way. They said getting a blue patch was way more important than going to Disney.”
Fredonia will now face Class B1 champion Depew on Wednesday at Williamsville North.