Makenzie Cowburn, who was named the regular season Section V Class B2 MVP tonight, is all smiles as the defense helped with another shutout and a victory over Penn Yan to reach the Section V finals. Chris Brooks photo.
By JOHN ANDERSON
WELLSVILLE — It’s not often there is a dramatic moment in a 14-0 game at any level when the star senior is up to bat with the lead at home.
On Thursday night in the Section V Class B2 semi-finals, Senior Emma Dunaway, the lone senior for the defending champion Wellsville Lions, was getting ready to step to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth.
PA announcer (and popular English teacher) Matt Warren, who always makes a home game entertaining, announced this would be the final at bat as a Wellsville Lion for Emma “Bama” Dunaway at Tullar Field.
The crowd rose to their feet and cheered.
Dunaway fought back tears the best she could and lined a shot down the third baseline for a single, scoring Lindsay Stuck to end the game with the 15-0 mercy rule.
As she doubled over, junior pitcher Mackenzie Cowburn raced out of the dugout and hugged her, followed by the entire team.
Wellsville coach Matt Burke enjoyed the moment and noticed the ovation.
“That’s a great way to end Emma Dunaway’s home career. Nothing better than having a walk-off hit to win a sectional playoff game. She had to fight through the tears to hit that last pitch to hit it … I’m really happy for her,” Burke said. “Yes, I noticed the ovation on that play and the crowd all season. The support we get from the Wellsville community is truly magnificent.”
The No. 1 seed Wellsville Lions improved to 18-1 with the victory and Penn Yan, the No. 4 seed, ended the season at 12-8.
The Lions will once again face Haverling High of Bath in the Section V Class B2 finals, as No. 2 Bath (16-2) beat No. 3 Way-Co (16-5), 3-1. It’s the second time Bath beat Way-Co 3-1 this season (see below for a finals preview). They two will meet on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Webster Thomas High outside of Rochester.
At the plate for Wellsville, sophomore Lindsay Stuck was 4-for-4 with 5 RBIs, two runs scored and a double and sophomore Makenna Dunbar was 3-for-4 with three runs scored, a double and 3 RBI’s.
Junior Sawyer Burke (two runs, RBI, stolen base), junior Brazen Beckwith, junior Makenzie Cowburn (2 RBIs), sophomore Averee Palmitier (run) and Dunaway (RBI, run) all had two hits. Junior Marissa Ordway had a walk and a single, junior Kailey Fuller scored three runs, junior Hailey Lanphier, who has been a power-hitting threat, scored two runs. Freshman Brynn Hallock scored a run.
The Lions have used courtesy runners more in the past seasons and have several on the varsity roster who can play at almost any position, hit and be called upon to run. The players called up from the JV team are doing a good job against tough defenses. They have not been picked off as teams try to throw behind the runner or make ball fakes in the infield.
Freshmen Teagan Burke and Ayla Faulkner came early in the season and have had valuable experience. Kaylie Fuller had been the veteran leader on the bases and now others are doing the job as well including Morgan Mattison, a sophomore and 8th grader Kennedy Perry.
The Lions have had solid play thanks to the Adams family tree. This year, it’s sophomore Natalie Adams playing tough at shortstop. Her sister Marley was an outstanding infielder and oldest sister Taylor made a Sportscenter catch in center that was so good that new fences had to be put up.
Behind the plate, junior Brazen Beckwith has been solid handling two different styles of pitchers with Cowburn and Dunbar. That is another advantage the Lions have, as Dunbar has a fastball not too many high school batters can catch up with, especially once or twice through the lineup.
“We practice hard and it’s nice to see several kids contribute to a victory,” coach Burke said.
Maddie Breuer had the lone Penn Yan hit, a single in the top of the first. A scary moment took place in the third inning when Penn Yan pitcher Giana Ficcaglia, who was pitching well at the time with five strikeouts, got injured during a play at the plate. While covering home, she took a cleat to the leg and appeared to need stitches as she was taken to a private vehicle and to the hospital.
It was a tough spot for infielder Dani Miller against the defending champions, but Miller threw strikes. The potent Wellsville offense kept hitting.
It took Wellsville a time through the order to figure out Ficcaglia and Coach Burke was pleased with the offense.
“Our hitters made a good adjustment on a very good pitcher and we were able to push across a couple of runs,” Coach Burke said. “Lindsay Stuck hit well and Makenzie pitched an excellent game and gave us a chance to win. That’s been a common theme all year. We had good hitting and swung the bat well, We are looking forward to keeping this momentum through Saturday.”
PENN YAN 000 00 — 0 1 1
WELLSVILLE 005 37 — 15 18 0
Giana Ficcaglia (5K, BB), Dani Miller (3) (3BB) and Hailey Trank
Makenzie Cowburn (6K) and Brazen Beckwith
Wellsville wrapped up an undefeated record at home this season as Makenna Dunbar broke the Wellsville single-season record for RBIs with 47 and Makenzie Cowburn had her 100th career hit.
In the quarterfinals, Dunaway earned her 100th hit as a Lion.
Cowburn, who was the sectional MVP last season, was named the 2023 Section V Class B2 player of the year.
BATH-WELLSVILLE SECTION V FINAL PREVIEW
Bath and Wellsville will face off at 1:30 p.m. at Webster Thomas. While the two are familiar foes, they did not play each other this season.
Last season, Wellsville and Bath played in a classic finals matchup.
Bath held a 1-0 lead in the fifth when the Lions finally got through to pitcher Katie Witherall when Makenna Dunbar drilled a double. Later in the inning with the bases loaded and one out, Sawyer Burke hit a seeing-eye single through the infield to score two runs. That would be the difference in a 2-1 win.
On the mound, Witherall struck out 11 Lions, allowed one walk and gave up just those two hits. Meanwhile, Wellsville’s Makenzie Cowburn pitched a four-hitter with one walk and nine strikeouts for the win.
Bath opened the 2023 season with a 6-5 loss to HFL on a cold March 24 day and fell to Class AA Victor, 2-0 on April 22. Since then, they have rattled off 13 straight wins.
Bath beat Hornell 9-2 and 4-0. They beat Addison 3-0 and 7-1 and Dansville 12-0.
Wellsville beat Hornell, 7-2, beat Addison, 15-4 and beat Dansville, 16-0.
Wellsville also beat Class AA Wester Schroeder, Class A Mercy, two Class AA teams and a Class A team in Virginia, and St. Mary’s of Pa.
The difference-maker for Bath is Witherell. In the quarterfinals, she tossed a complete game 2-hit shutout with 21 strikeouts. At the plate, she had two hits and Caydence Speaks, Madison Coots and Ryleigh Lavery hit well.
Chris Brooks photos: