Stories and photos by CHRIS BROOKS
Bolivar-Richburg charted their course nearly two hours away in Gowanda to finish penning what would be the final chapter of their Sectional saga. The Lady Wolverines were first up, as they looked to end an absence from that stately stage that has spanned for nearly a decade.
The obstacle barricading that door to the big stage? A team that got a chance to do something that not many teams can say they’ve done — host the Far West Regional Tournament. For the Lady Panthers of Gowanda themselves, that was most certainly the case.
All night long, the fence surrounding the incredible and breathtaking athletic facility in Gowanda was filled to the brim with spectators occupying their cheering sections. For host Gowanda, they used every bit of that rare home field advantage.
In what has been an unbelievable ride through their journey across the way in Section VI, the Lady Panthers ensured it would continue on, as an incredible stout display of defense paired with a quick start and strong finish against Bolivar-Richburg allowed them to secure the first all-exclusive trip to Long Island in shutout style, laying claim to the Class C Far West Regional title with a 5-0 blank of the Lady Wolverines to end another incredible season on the diamond.
The Lady Wolverines fell behind rather quickly to Gowanda’s grasp in the opening frame. After going down in order to the Lady Panthers defense, the momentum fiercely shifted to the bats against Malayna Ayers, as three big runs off two hits — a two-run single from Ella Luther, and RBI triple from Holland Browning, broke the ice in the biggest of ways to create the early advantage for the hosts.
It was a 3-0 hole that Bolivar-Richburg had to find their way out of up until the very end. Solid contact at the plate was made all across the night, but the Lady Panthers would not let much slip past them, as the Lady Wolverines ultimately scattered six hits from five different batters. Allie Zilker would have two of those to lead the way in the offensive department.
While Gowanda held Bolivar-Richburg at bay, they were rewarded for their defensive efforts later on by Addison Kota. In the midst of twirling a shutout inside the circle, she would use her bat to add one of two humongous pieces of insurance to further distance their lead to four against the Lady Wolverines with an RBI single on advancement. A fifth and final run would come across on an issue of key baserunning.
Perhaps the last stints of momentum that Bolivar-Richburg were able to build from, came in the last two innings of play, with an inning-ending double play serving as the main contributor to their stint of offense in the sixth. But just as quickly as they were able to get to the plate, Gowanda was even quicker getting off the field, as they shut it down with a 1-2-3 on defense themselves immediately following.
Bolivar-Richburg would then reverse course again on the Lady Panthers with another 1-2-3 on defense in the seventh inning to give themselves one final chance to get back to within reach. With two base runners on and two outs, the opportunity was there. But a grounder fielded by Kota in the circle allowed the Lady Panthers to finish the job, claiming the Class C Far West Regional title on their home field in shutout fashion.
The Lady Wolverines recorded six hits at the plate, with McKinlee Harris, Rylee Whiting, Summer Beckwith and Jayna Thomas all recording a hit. In the circle, Ayers handed out four chairs in what would be her final game in black and red colors.
For Lovell, this year’s team has been the best she’s ever coached.
“I’m proud of what the girls accomplished this season,” she said. “There were many of them that were working in the gym with me in January. From open gyms to doing push-ups throughout the season. I got all I could out of this group. Their dedication and determination is something I admire about this group. I can honestly say that this is the best group of athletes I have coached so far in my career.”
Another marvelous season of Bolivar-Richburg softball is officially history, as the team finishes with a record of 23-3 overall to pair alongside a third consecutive Section V championship and their first trip to the Far West Regional since the 2014 season. The Lady Wolverines will officially bid adieu to all six of their seniors — Ayers, Zilker, McKinlee and Madigan Harris, Haley Mascho and Madison Carney, all of which have provided outstanding contributions over recent seasons to propel the Lady Wolverines back onto the Section V map.
Contributions that will be unmatched.
“I have coached Malayna, McKinlee, Madigan since 2020 when the season was cancelled because of COVID. I have enjoyed getting to know them as athletes and young women. They gave me everything they had, and really bought into the culture that I wanted to establish within the program,” Lovell said. “Haley Mascho has had a great season, and is an all-around phenomenal kid. She’s an athlete that every coach wants on their team. Allison Zilker and Madison Carney have both been exceptional leaders, and have taken the underclassmen under their wing. The six seniors will be missed next year, but I know the five coming back will continue their tradition and legacy into next year.”
Class C Far West Regional
Bolivar-Richburg 000 000 0 – 0 6 1
Gowanda 300 020 X – 5 11 1
B-R – Malayna Ayers (LP) (CG, 4K) and Madigan Harris.
GOW – Addison Kota (WP) (CG, K, BB) and Ella Luther.
Photos from Friday by Chris Brooks, the title game stories after:
Class C2 Finals
No. 1 Bolivar-Richburg 5, No. 3 Dundee/Bradford 0
IRONDEQUOIT — Since the arrival of head coach Brooke Lovell, success has never tasted sweeter for the Lady Wolverines of Bolivar-Richburg in recent years.
Nearly 60 wins, two straight Section V titles and a plethora of bonus accolades in between everything, the winning culture that has been re-instilled into the program is something that the Lady Wolverines continue to strive for, each and every time they step onto the field no matter where they are.
This season has been no different. The Lady Wolverines have found the win column 21 times out of their 23 games thus far, including massive wins over Bloomfield, Hornell, Addison, Olean, Friendship/Scio and during this Sectional hunt against Cuba-Rushford and Byron-Bergen, they have done it all.
And now, the possibility of adding a third straight Section V title to their showcase in Lovell’s third season at the helm, became an absolute reality with a trip to Eastridge High in Irondequoit on Saturday to face a No. 3 Dundee/Bradford squad who upset Class C powerhouse Caledonia-Mumford to earn their place in the Class C2 Finals.
Through thick and thin, the Lady Wolverines have battled. They have fought tooth and nail in order to continue their climb towards the ultimate prize that awaited at the end of their Sectional journey. But after their previous victory over the Lady Bees of Byron-Bergen in the Semifinals, they would return to form.
All of which, spearheaded by another dominant effort by Malayna Ayers in the circle.
She has been Bolivar-Richburg’s number one almost everywhere on the field this season. In the circle, at the plate, the list goes on. And because of it, the Lady Wolverines senior has gone on to produce one of the best seasons of her career. The corroboration? — a 12-strikeout, three-hit shutout in her biggest game of the season, posting it against Dundee/Bradford while jump-starting the offense with a big third inning hit that created a crack big enough into the ice for the rest of the team to follow behind, as Bolivar-Richburg went on to claim their third straight Section V title in shutout fashion by a 5-0 count.
“Malayna has been great all season long, and she was even more outstanding tonight,” said Lady Wolverines coach Brooke Lovell. “She mixes her pitches very well and the defense has stepped up behind her to make big plays. From the beginning of my tenure here, I have coached some great athletes. They have bought into the culture, the guidelines, the expectations that I’ve established. I believe that has allowed us to be really successful.”
The Lady Wolverines (22-2) would duel early with Dundee/Bradford across the first two innings of play, providing chances on the bases to knock on the door with. In the midst of those opportunities, Bolivar-Richburg put a big stop to a pair of walks issued in the second by Ayers in the circle, as she quickly rebounded to deliver all three outs with her arm to keep Dundee/Bradford at a standstill.
After a 1-2-3 on defense in the third, Bolivar-Richburg rode the momentum wave towards their first lead of the game, beginning a strand of four consecutive innings with a run scored, beginning with a massive Ayers triple to the deep outfield to start cracking the ice, scoring Haley Mascho along the way.
The damage continued to increase in the fourth with two more runs to earn a 3-0 lead, as Emma Sisson drove one in on a single into the outfield, while Madison Carney scored an RBI off an error by the Dundee/Bradford defense.
Bolivar-Richburg’s lead would ultimately reach its apex of five as time continued to progress, as they accounted for a run in each of their last two offensive outings — a Rylee Whiting sacrifice fly in the fifth, and an RBI single off the bat of Madigan Harris in the bottom of the sixth. In the top of the seventh, Dundee/Bradford did their best to chip away after a lead-off double started their final offensive series, but a pop-out straight to Ayers at the mound closed out the game for good, as the Lady Wolverines remained at the top of Section V with their third straight title.
“I have really enjoyed coaching this group of kids,” Lovell said. “They all get along really well, and they all feed off of each other’s energy. They get hyped up off of their teammates and their successes, and that is really special to see.”
Mascho, Ayers and Sisson all had two hits to lead the Lady Wolverines offense. For Lovell, the big hits continue to come through, especially from the bottom of her lineup, where Sisson currently stands.
“The bottom of the order really came through for us tonight, and honestly it sparked things,” she said. “Emma had a big hit for us, and she has had an incredibly good approach at the plate that saw some great at-bats during Sectionals.”
The next stop for the Lady Wolverines: The Class C State Qualifier on Tuesday, as they prepare to square off with Class C1 champion Addison — a team they defeated, 7-5 in their home tournament back at the end of April. First pitch between both teams is set for a 7 p.m. start at Honeoye Falls-Lima.
Dundee/Bradford 000 000 0 – 0 3 2
Bolivar-Richburg 001 211 X – 5 9 1
D/B – Adrienne Kendall (LP) (CG, K, 2BB) and Korrin Yeoman.
B-R – Malayna Ayers (WP) (CG, 12K, 2BB) and Madigan Harris.