By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com
LONG ISLAND — It was a point in time that no team could reach. All of last season’s Sectional Champions saw their campaigns come to a screeching halt, with one of the rarest opportunities one could come across being taken away due to the raging global storm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A chance to punch a round-trip ticket to the State Championships, was deemed impossible.
Among those Champions last year, were four of the five teams that wound up repeating history again this year — Bolivar-Richburg baseball and softball, Wellsville softball and Friendship/Scio softball.
With COVID-19 slowing down across New York State, the State Championships made its official return to the grandest stage to close out an incredible 2021-22 High School Sports season. The penultimate team on that list was also Allegany County’s final team left standing, still on the hunt for glory. Their next steps would now become giant ones, across a concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York.
Friendship/Scio’s final destination to close out the season in its entirety came from within the confines of Moriches Athletic Complex down on Long Island. A chance to become Allegany County’s first Softball State Champion in nearly 20 years — the last being the Jordan Ingalls-led Lady Wolverines of Bolivar-Richburg back in 2006.
The first step forward was the Semifinals against a heavyweight that is no stranger to finding glory themselves — Section IV power Deposit/Hancock, a team that has won it all three times in four seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was a game that Friendship/Scio wanted to grab the early start in, scoring the game’s first two runs to hold the lead.
Deposit/Hancock fought back however, managing to tie the game up later on to create even ground between the two Class D juggernauts. But as soon as the first punch was landed by the Section IV rep, the rainstorm soon came after.
The tie was ultimately broken coming down the stretch, as Deposit/Hancock brought their offense together against one of Section V’s finest in sophomore Nevaeh Ross, as they wound up scoring five unanswered runs, including three back-breaking runs in the fifth to spring ahead and eventually towards victory, where they would wind up becoming the eventual State Champions in Class D after beginning their day with a 7-2 win over Friendship/Scio to end their season, Saturday morning.
“We couldn’t get our bats going. We stranded about 10 base runners, and that did not help matters,” Friendship/Scio coach Deb Kane said. “Once they tied the game and went ahead, it put us into a hole. These ladies were a bit on the nervous side, but this experience, especially at this level, is going to be huge for them in the long run. They know the hard work and determination, how much it will take to get back to this success. I am so proud of them for accepting these challenges to give us the season that we have had.”
Friendship/Scio (17-5) scored their last two runs of the season in the first three innings of play against Deposit/Hancock, scoring bright and early in their first at-bats, capitalizing on special teams with Nevaeh Ross scoring the run off a passed ball after originally leading off with a walk. The two foes would trade a scoreless second inning before the Section V reps branched their lead out to a pair behind a big two-out RBI single off the bat of Kiara Grover, who drove in 8th-grader Morghyn Ross.
The response by Deposit/Hancock in the home half of the third was equal to what Friendship/Scio had built thus far, as they punctuated on a two-run frame themselves, led by an error in the field and an RBI off a sacrifice bunt to tie the game up at two.
Both Ross and Deposit/Hancock’s Rylee Smith helped trade another scoreless inning of defense on each side in the fourth before the action picked up again in the fifth for the eventual State Champs, as they scored three enormous runs led by back-to-back RBIs to take a 5-2 lead — their first in the game.
It was also a lead that Deposit/Hancock would not release again, adding to it another inning later with a pair of sacrifices plating two more runs. That came alongside a stellar defensive effort in turn to keep Friendship/Scio off the board for the last four innings of play to secure their spot in the State Title game later that day.
Deposit/Hancock would defeat Section III’s Oriskany by an 8-1 count to become State Champions for the fourth time in five seasons.
Kane commended her team for their efforts all season long, especially after a 6-2 loss to the hands of Avoca/Prattsburgh over the road back on May 10 ultimately helped turned everything around and towards finding back-to-back Sectional titles.
“This team has improved in all areas offensively, as well as defensively, coming together not only as a team but like a family,” she said. “The games that we have lost gave us the challenge of working on the game to get better. The games we came from behind showed this team how much they have developed perseverance and determination. Like I’ve said in the past, one inning, one game at a time and that’s how they won Sectionals, Regionals and got them to make this trip to New York City.”
Friendship/Scio finishes with two runs off two hits at the plate. Aside from the RBI single by Grover, Morghyn Ross collected the team’s last hit off a single herself. In the circle, Nevaeh Ross struck out seven and walked four in her final game of her sophomore season.
The magical ride for the two communities, who came together as one for their first official season, is now over, as Friendship/Scio wraps up with a record of 17-5 overall to go with their Class D titles in both Section V and from the Far West Regional last weekend in Fillmore over Westfield.
Even though all great things have to come to an end at some point, Friendship/Scio will have the majority of their team back to try and go for it all again next Spring, as they say goodbye to three outstanding pieces to their puzzle that helped author the team’s journey to the Big Apple this season — Kendra Gleason, Jadeyn Shields and Keely Sisson.
Coach Kane spoke of her three Seniors, offering all of her best wishes and many thanks to their many contributions they were able to give over the years.
“The team will be missing their presence on the field,” she said. “Keely out in left really improved at the plate, and she helped us win the game against Westfield with a big stolen base. Kendra at third base always gave us some great plays at the hot corner off bunts, adding some key hits at the plate, and Jadeyn is our leader at first. She’s our cheerleader, one of our co-captains. She always keeps the team pumped up and in the game. She is the voice on the field, as well as a big bat at the plate, always finding her way on base to give us plenty of chances to score. I want to thank these Seniors for their countless hours and effort on the field, and I wish them all the best of luck in their next endeavors.”
Kane also added on the future which will remain extraordinarily bright when the team comes together once again in 2023, with names like Nevaeh Ross, Kadence Donohue, Katherine Lamberson, Claire Calhoun to name a few, all return to the softball field to perhaps make a run at a potential three-peat in Section V.
“This has been such a great season and experience with these young ladies, as well as for our communities,” she said. “We had a couple players recovering from injuries. With hard work, Logan Roberts will be back to step in and be a part of our infield, Tara Beckhorn will add some speed for us. Nevaeh will be back doing what she does, along with Morghyn catching for her. Kadence Donohue, Kiara Grover, Claire Calhoun, Kate Lamberson, Grace Drumm, Nora Thompson, Olivia Marks, Aryana Hale, Zoe Dieter, Kristianna Smith. They’re all coming back to help us with another run. Our future is still very bright, and we have so much that we are looking forward to when next season gets here.”
Friendship/Scio 101 000 0 – 2 2 3
Deposit/Hancock 002 032 X – 7 6 1
F/S – Nevaeh Ross (LP) (CG, 7K, 4BB), and Morghyn Ross.
D/H – Rylee Smith (WP) (CG, 6K, 6BB), and Amanda Ray.