By CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com, PHOTOS by TRICIA DAVENPORT
Class D2 Semifinals
No. 1 Friendship/Scio 8, No. 5 Andover/Whitesville 0
SCIO — When you have an incredible talent like Nevaeh Ross on your team, the possibilities become endless and the ceiling above reaches never-before-seen heights. For Friendship/Scio, they’re in the midst of a historic tear unlike any other in year’s past between the two schools.
Thursday night presented an opportunity to make that one giant leap towards the weekend to defend their Class D2 crown once again for a third straight year. After receiving an automatic berth into the Semifinal round as the top seed in the class, all that was left was to overcome one final obstacle separating them from a return trip to Fillmore — No. 5 Andover/Whitesville.
All it would take was a first inning statement to set the most massive of tones. Who other than the Friendship/Scio junior phenom herself?
In the very first at-bat of the inning, Ross absolutely scorched a line drive shot that left the field in Scio in a hurry, soaring into the clear blue sky for a lead-off home run — one of two she would record in the game while assuming total control from within the circle on defense, handing out 18 chairs to Andover/Whitesville and allowing just two hits to send Friendship/Scio back to the Class D2 Finals this weekend with an 8-0 shutout.
“It was a good game. We adjusted our lineup to see how it might work for the time ahead, but Nevaeh was strong on the mound and she had a really good baty again tonight,” said Friendship/Scio coach Deb Warner. “Morghyn (Ross) also had another great game at the plate. We did have a couple of younger players like Emily (Lamberson) and Nora (Thompson) make great contact tonight to help us out a bit further on offense.”
With an early 1-0 lead already in the wagon for Friendship/Scio (17-3), the damage that Ross provided with her lead-off jack would only increase in power as time went on, as the defending champions went on to lay more down onto the foundation in the biggest of ways — a five-run second inning, paced by a two-run single off the bat of Kiara Grover to branch their lead to six.
After one more run came across in the third, the remainder of the battle rested solely in Ross’ hands, as she continued to keep Andover/Whitesville at bay each and every step of the way, accounting for four different instances where she struck out the side. As a result, she put an exclamation point on the team’s return trip to the Class D2 Finals on Saturday with her second home run of the game, blasting another lead-off shot in the bottom of the sixth to cap off the victory.
Ross would finish with a 3-for-4 outing that also included a double sandwiched in between her pair of homers, totaling four RBI in all. Morghyn Ross also chipped in with three hits of her own, including a double. Emily Lamberson went a perfect 3-for-3 with a triple to help round off the bats.
For Andover/Whitesville, Makaila Brewster struck out four and walked two in her complete game on the mound. At the plate, she alongside Gabbi Hall delivered the team’s two lone hits — both singles. The 2023 campaign is over for Andover/Whitesville, as they wrap up with a record of 5-14 overall. They will graduate six seniors at the end of the year in Hall, Gabby Terhune, Aislinn Hamilton, Mathea Reynolds, Kennedy Bledsoe and Emily Schweigart.
On Saturday, Friendship/Scio will make the trek back to Fillmore where they will defend their Class D2 title in all of its glory, with a chance to earn their third straight crown against No. 3 C.G. Finney in a 3:30 p.m. first pitch.
For Warner, it’s been a goal that the girls have had at the top of their list, but at the same time, something monumental they want to achieve for their community.
“It’s a goal, but it’s never been done here in these two small little towns,” she said. “The girls are excited, and they’re anxious and nervous all at one to go back there and do it again. But we will continue to keep working towards that goal. It’s been there since the first day of practice. One inning at a time, one game at a time.”
Andover/Whitesville 000 000 0 – 0 2 1
Friendship/Scio 151 001 X – 8 13 0
A/W – Makaila Brewster (LP) (CG, 4K, 2BB) and Gabbi Hall.
F/S – Nevaeh Ross (WP) (CG, 18K) and Morghyn Ross.
Class C2 Semifinals
No. 1 Bolivar-Richburg 10, No. 4 Byron-Bergen 5
RICHBURG — The ongoing quest back to the Class C2 Finals for the Lady Wolverines of Bolivar-Richburg has not been an easy one. But it’s one that the top seeds have proven that they are more than capable of accepting the challenge for. They know what it takes to become the best of the best.
In the first two years of the Brooke Lovell era, the Lady Wolverines have hit all strides across all aspects of their game. Hitting, defense, special teams, you name it. Because of it, they’ve navigated their way back to the top of the Class C2 mountain in back-to-back seasons, with the possibility of a third straight title looming in the distance.
After a hardfought challenge received by their longtime rival Cuba-Rushford back on Monday, the same path they would have to carve back to the Class C2 Finals again would only become more difficult. One more stepping stone sat in between Bolivar-Richburg and that coveted contest — No. 4 Byron-Bergen, who came out of the gate with the lead after the opening inning.
But like the battle against the Lady Rebels earlier in the week, the Lady Wolverines would find their way back to the front in some way. With the Lady Bees hot on their trail going down the homestretch, the hosts in black and red at Stan Harris Field put on an ending of unrelenting power to close out the night.
With just a two-run cushion separating both teams, the Lady Wolverines pushed all of their chips to the center of the table in the bottom of the fifth, hitting the jackpot with a breakout inning they needed, scoring seven enormous runs to increase their lead to nine, as they remained on top despite one last heroic attempt by Byron-Bergen in the seventh to re-punch their ticket back to the Finals to defend their crown after a 10-5 win over the Lady Bees.
“The girls have battled all season long. Even during times when we have been down, they never hang their heads. That is something that has made me proud as their coach,” Lovell said. “We set goals at the beginning of the year, and they have taken the steps needed to accomplish them. In March, we knew that we had a target on our back from the previous season. Being able to get back to the Finals for a third year in a row is a testament to the work they’ve put in.”
After Byron-Bergen broke the ice with some key baserunning in the top of the first, the Lady Wolverines (21-2) had to find their way back after an opportunity in the bottom half to respond with a pair of no-out runners on base, evaporated with the next three batters going down in order at the plate. In the bottom of the second, they would not let another opportunity slip away, as some special teams play around the bases along with an RBI single from Madigan Harris allowed the hosts to spring ahead towards a 2-1 lead.
In the midst of the exchange, both Byron-Bergen’s Kendall Phillips and Bolivar-Richburg’s Malayna Ayers engaged in a battle of wits from within their respective circles all game along, as the two aces combined to hand out 24 total chairs, with Ayers being responsible for 11 of them for the Lady Wolverines. But where she really dealt damage, was at the plate. Just like she has all season long.
With a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, Bolivar-Richburg demolished the floodgates and posted a massive seven-run outburst against the Lady Bees, which was paced by two enormous hits — a two-run single from McKinlee Harris and three at-bats later, a bases-clearing double to the outfield by Ayers to put the Lady Wolverines over the top.
Byron-Bergen showed no quit however, as they went on to score the game’s last four runs to put the pressure on the defending Class C2 champions late, including a three-spot in the seventh inning led by an Alyssa Ball two-run homer to cut the deficit down. But Ayers was able to regain her command and deliver the final out herself on a putback to the mound, sealing Bolivar-Richburg’s return trip to the title game this weekend.
The Lady Wolverines mustered 10 runs off 11 hits at the plate, with McKinlee and Madigan Harris both paving the way towards three-hit performances. Ayers would chip in with two hits, including her game-breaking, bases-clearing double, while Allie Zilker, Jayna Thomas and Emma Sisson each had a hit to pitch in to round off the offense.
The journey towards reclaiming greatness rolls on for Bolivar-Richburg, as they now prepare for a bus ride to Eastridge High School in East Irondequoit on Saturday for a meeting with No. 3 Dundee/Bradford in the Class C2 Finals, where they will look to capture a third straight Section V title. First pitch is set to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Byron-Bergen 100 001 3 – 5 5 5
Bolivar-Richburg 020 170 X – 10 11 4
B-B – Kendall Phillips (LP) (CG, 13K, 3BB) and Alyssa Ball.
B-R – Malayna Ayers (WP) (CG, 11K, 3BB) and Madigan Harris.
Class B4 Finals
No. 2 Naples 4, No. 1 Fillmore 1
ALMOND — What a ride it has been for the undefeated Eagles of Fillmore. One match after another, Allegany County’s last team standing on the tennis court has come away victorious, rattling off 17 straight wins since the beginning of the season to muscle their way into a position they haven’t been in since 2019 — the Finals.
Now, they were granted a chance to climb back to the top of the Section V world once again. In front of them was No. 2 Naples — a Section V superpower looking to play spoiler in Fillmore’s perfect season.
The Eagles were able to grab another outstanding performance from Eben Schilke at first singles to garner their first win. But for the remainder of the match, the Big Green assumed total control, as they recorded the next four victories, including a sweep of both doubles matches, to pace their path towards the Class B4 Championship on the grounds of Alfred-Almond with a 4-1 victory, handing Fillmore their first and only loss of the season.
“We ran into a better team tonight. I’m not sure if there was anything we could have done to get a different outcome,” Eagles coach Randy Crouch said. “It seems like it comes to Naples and us pretty frequently, and the last two years, they have been able to outplay us. Losing, specifically in the Finals, never gets easier. We’ve been here 11 or 12 times in the last 19 years I’ve coached, and walking away without the trophy is always tough. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys though. They epitomize sportsmanship and what scholar athletes are supposed to be.”
Schilke’s victory, the lone tally for the Eagles, came in a tough, competitive battle alongside Naples’ Matt Lincoln, as found his winning edge one last time this season with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. All four of the remaining victories yielding in favor of the Big Green were recorded in straight sets, with Isaiah Sisson and Marcus Wolfer each going down by a 6-3, 6-2 decision at second and third singles respectively to close out the singles department.
In the doubles matches, the No. 2 seeds continued the momentum swing by bringing out the brooms for a complete sweep of both matches, as Joe Derck and Jack Boon fell in a 6-3, 6-1 decision in their first doubles battle, while Henry Decker and Ezra Knapp were kept at bay at second doubles in a 6-1, 6-0 contest.
Another outstanding season of tennis for Fillmore has reached its conclusion, as the Class B4 runners-up finish up their 2023 campaign with a record of 17-1 overall. Looking back, Crouch is proud of the non-stop efforts his group has made over the season, while at the same time, releasing his excitement for what next Spring will bring.
“I can’t say enough about Eben’s play these last two nights. He’s been lights out for us, and I also can’t say enough about my two seniors, Henry and Joe. They are the kind of kids coaches dream about working with,” he said. “They’ve set the tone for what our program is supposed to be. There’s nothing left to do but to start working with the great nucleus we have returning, and get ready for 2024.”
1. Eben Schilke (FIL) def. Matt Lincoln (NAP), 6-3, 6-3.
2. Landon Gleichauf (NAP) def. Isaiah Sisson (FIL), 6-3, 6-2.
3. Dean Rischpater (NAP) def. Marcus Wolfer (FIL), 6-3, 6-2.
1. Ian Kenney/Jake Betrus (NAP) def. Joe Derck/Jack Boon, 6-3, 6-1.
2. Colin Kenney/Eliza Almekinder (NAP) def. Henry Decker/Ezra Knapp (FIL), 6-1, 6-0.