Thursday Roundup: Lady Lions combat cold weather, break open offense late vs. Falconer to set up 11-0 home-opening shutout; Ricketts helps Rebels edge past Salamanca with narrow edge on road
Photos and story by Chris Brooks, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — The chilly weather in the forecast for Thursday night put another damper on teams looking to get their seasons started outdoors before the Spring Break officially kicks into gear next week.
But not for the Lady Lions of Wellsville, who returned home after a successful road trip to Allegany-Limestone began their 2023 campaign on the biggest of footsteps. The hope was to continue paving that path forward into the break, beginning with a pair of home contests against Section VI competition.
First up was defending Class C champion Falconer. And for a good portion of time, the Lady Lions accepted the challenge that the Lady Golden Falcons brought to the table, despite the less-than-ideal playing conditions.
Through it all, the back-to-back Class B2 queens of Section V were able to grab the start they wanted, breaking the ice with a narrow advantage. From there, they would continue to look towards their defense to hold down the fort.
They would go on to do just that, and as a result: the bats would soon emerge.
The Lady Lions brought it all full circle in the last two innings of play, scoring nine runs to push what was an early 2-0 advantage on Falconer, insurmountably out of reach, with Makenzie Cowburn and Makenna Dunbar leading the charge once again with another combined no-hit performance from within the circle, as they strolled past the Lady Golden Falcons with an 11-0 blank to open their home slate at Tullar Field.
“We had tremendous pitching tonight and our bats started a little bit slow, but we werea ble to put some good swings on the ball to push the runs across the plate. So far early in the season, we are playing well and the goal is to just take it one game at a time and keep momentum going.” said Lady Lions coach Matt Burke.
The first stand of defense for Wellsville (2-0) began strongly with a quick 1-2-3 of the Falconer at-bats before providing their first threat themselves immediately following, beginning with a lead-off Emma Dunaway single that plummeted into shallow right field. Dunaway was the first of two runners to reach for the Lady Lions, but they could not find a way to provide a timely hit to break the ice.
Despite the early missed opportunity to strike, the hosts in orange would make sure that the next chance to score would be one that provided full capitalization for, as Sawyer Burke’s sacrifice fly to deep center field allowed Natalie Adams to come across at the plate. Adams would then come across a short time later on a wild pitch behind the plate to extend the lead out to a pair.
The advantage over the Lady Golden Falcons would hold all the way until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Lady Lions scratched across three runs to take a 5-0 lead. One final time, the advantage would see colossal growth in the sixth, as the team bolstered it with a six-run jolt. Powering the offense was Dunbar, as she ultimately helped put the game away for good with a towering and destructive three-run detonation to deep left center field, giving them all the room they needed to pave their path towards victory.
Dunbar was one of six different Lady Lions to record at least a pair of hits at the plate, finishing with a 2-for-4 tenure that included a double and five total RBI. Dunaway along with Averee Palmatier, Lindsay Stuck, Makenzie Cowburn all recorded two hits, including a double, while Hailey Lanphier had an RBI double to pitch in.
In the circle, Cowburn was awarded the win in the team’s second straight combined no-hit performance to open their campaign, striking out 14 Falconer hitters while walking three. Dunbar would shut the door in the seventh inning, striking out the side in her relief appearance.
Before the Lady Lions head south for Spring Break, they will return to Tullar Field on Saturday, if weather permits, where they will host their Diamond of Honor celebration, as they prepare to host Sherman in a 12 p.m. first pitch.
Falconer 000 000 0 – 0 0 2
Wellsville 020 036 X – 11 13 1
FAL – Hannah Melquist (LP) (CG, 2K, 4BB).
WLSV – Makenzie Cowburn (WP) (14K, 3BB), Makenna Dunbar (7) (3K) and Lindsay Stuck, Brazen Beckwith (7).
Cuba-Rushford 4, Salamanca 3
SALAMANCA — The Rebels of Cuba-Rushford were given a challenging task to begin their campaign on Thursday, visiting Salamanca for a battle that would come down to the wire in the last inning of play.
With the host Warriors hot on their trail, the Rebels would need to provide a near perfect effort to help close up shop. Luckily, the golden glove of Jacob Smith in the outfield helped energize the defense and propel the team towards their first win, as the senior made a game-saving and game-ending play with the game-tying run on second to ensure what was a 4-3 edge.
“| was very pleased with being outside for the first time today,” said Rebels coach Pat Wight. “We were only outside one time this whole time we were able to practice. Defensively, we did very well, and that helped our offense. Braeden (Wight) and Finn (Ricketts) played absolutely flawless up the middle, and the pitchers in front of him threw a ton of strikes to try and keep Salamanca off balance. It was a clean, solid win.”
After a defensive first two innings of play between both squads, the Rebels (1-0) were able to put an early hammer down on the Warriors with a big three-run third inning, led by the bat of Finn Ricketts who blasted a one-out RBI triple to score Braeden Wight before coming in to score on an Eli Sleggs single moments later to finish the scoring.
With the lead in hand, Cuba-Rushford would look to their defense to continue holding the fort down. In the fourth, they would proceed to do just that with a 1-2-3 frame, powered by back-to-back strikeouts by Sleggs. Salamanca would find their way onto the board themselves with a pair of unanswered runs coming across in the fifth and sixth innings to cut their deficit down to one.
In the seventh, the visitors in blue were able to ward off a final push by the Warriors to maintain their lead, as each team exchanged a run on each side, allowing them to maintain their one footstep ahead to secure the win.
Sleggs was awarded the win on the mount for the Rebels, striking out six and walking two in his five-inning start. At the plate, Jacob Smith led the bats with two of the team’s four hits.
Cuba-Rushford is back in action after Spring Break, as they visit defending Class D Champion Fillmore for a 5 p.m. first pitch on April 11.
Cuba-Rushford 003 000 1 – 4 4 4
Salamanca 000 0 1 1 1 – 3 7 1
C-R – Eli Sleggs (WP) (6K, 2BB), Allen Fuller (6) (K) and Dean Frank.
SAL – Jackson Ross (LP) (9K, 4BB), Zaron Tucker (4) (3K) and Cameron McGraw.