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Friendship-Scio softball going back to states in Long Island after Ross no-hitter and 3-0 win

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Story by Chris Brooks (wellsvillesports.com) photos by Tricia Davenport and Chris Brooks

GOWANDA — Long Island. It’s not quite exactly like the lights, the glitz and the glamour held from within the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, but it still holds eye-catching, extravagant gems of destinations such as Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and The Hamptons.

Off to the west, a beacon of hope. Lady Liberty herself looks out into the bay at a constant, torch held high and the Declaration of Independence caressed ever so strongly within her hands.

Go further inland towards the very end of the island and just south of the Long Island Sound, you’ll find New York State’s biggest softball stage — the Moriches Athletic Complex.

Title town.

For Allegany County’s last three teams standing, it was the prime destination. A chance to become one of four remaining elites from within their respective class to go for the ultimate prize that awaits. A chance at Empire State royalty.

The hunt was officially on.

Two of those teams fought to earn their way there on Friday in Gowanda, as Bolivar-Richburg and Friendship/Scio each charted their course nearly two hours away 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.

There was one thing that Nevaeh Ross issued to her teammates in a speech between the end of last season to present day — a guarantee. A guarantee that they would make it back to the states the next season.

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To close out the night in Gowanda, Friendship/Scio was given that opportunity again to vie for all of the Class D marbles against Westfield in what was a rematch for the ages. One that featured a pitching duel between Ross and Westfield’s Haleigh Dellow that truly became a sight to behold for all to bear witness to.

Throughout the war, the two hurlers combined to record 23 strikeouts while allowing just three hits. The three hits, all produced by Friendship/Scio.

In all, if it meant taking down a Division-I commit to George Mason on the mound for Westfield to do it, Ross would make sure that the guaranteed promise to her teammates was fulfilled.

Fulfilled in one of the best ways possible. In one of the ways she knows all too well.

Aside from a lead-off error committed by the Friendship/Scio defense, the rest of the evening in store was absolutely flawless, as Ross kept a red hot Westfield team at a complete standstill while the ongoing pitcher’s duel with Dellow began to create separation down the stretch. In turn, Friendship/Scio scored three enormous runs to get the room they needed to officially punch their return tickets back to Moriches after another one of the most brilliant performances came into complete fruition in a 3-0 no-hit shutout under the lights to capture a second straight Class D Far West Regional title.

“I’m exhausted, tense, relieved. When you have Nevaeh and Morghyn on the team, it’s the best 1-2 punch we could ask for,” said Friendship/Scio coach Deb Warner. “When you have Kiara (Grover) that’s starting to hit the ball too, it’s very rewarding. This is a historical milestone that Friendship and Scio has never been through, as far as softball. What’s really nice is that the younger generation of kids all want to come out and play. With all of the success we’ve been able to build, there’s more interest in this. This is quite the time.”

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The promise was fulfilled, despite the first three innings between both teams being filled with the night’s common trend — the quick inning. Friendship/Scio (20-3) and Westfield each went down in order during their first three appearances at the plate, with Ross taking absolute command of her post within the circle, firing seven strikeouts in her first 10 Westfield batters faced to ultimately help set a tone.

With it, the offense would begin to pull through with the help of Morghyn Ross. With Nevaeh standing on base after taking a lead-off hit inside the box, Morghyn drove in her sister on a long drive to deep right center field to record the stand-up double that broke the ice. On the next at-bat, Kiara Grover brought her bat to life with a zinger that hit the Westfield right fielder straight on the glove, and out towards the fence, remaining on first with a single to score Ross along the way to close the scoring up with a 2-0 lead.

Ross would go on to issue another rapid 1-2-3 of the Westfield bats in the circle — the fourth straight to open the game while eclipsing 10 strikeouts along the way, keeping their lead intact.

She would finish with 14 strikeouts and not a single walk allowed to complete the epic no-hit bid.

“I can’t say enough. I really can’t,” Warner said. “She’s done it the whole season. Since she got here back in seventh grade, she has really matured and become that leader for this team. Her growth has been incredible on the mound. She’s the backbone for this team, and that catcher she has, Morghyn is just as good. Nevaeh is also in her element getting better and better at the plate. The last few games, she’s managed to hit it over the fence.”

But the time for insurance soon came after Ross was signaled back home on a foul ball during what would be her final at-bat. With the next opportunity she was presented with at the plate, it was the biggest of them all. A complete gamechanger.

If there was ever a time for a massive piece of insurance to factor into play, it would be in the top of the sixth inning, where Nevaeh delivered an absolute detonation into the dusky night of Gowanda and into the shrubbery in center field, where it was later discovered that Ross had hit straight into a creekbed amidst the trees and grass.

A no-doubter.

The one piece of gigantic insurance would ultimately be Friendship/Scio’s final hit of the game, as the defense turned up the heat on Westfield going into the last two innings — both of which were completed in incredible fashion consecutively, with Ross recording her 14th and final strikeout as the game’s last out, throwing her glove straight into the air to finish off a second straight trip to Moriches.

That trip is now in full view, as they now get set to go back to where it all left off a year ago — the State Final Four, where they will look to take it another step forward in a Semifinal matchup slated against either Section III’s Poland or Section X’s Edwards-Knox beginning at 1 p.m. next Friday afternoon.

For Warner, the biggest hope is that the girls remain as focused as ever on the grand prize that awaits.

“Hopefully, we have matured and learned from last year’s experience being down there,” she said. “We were out of sync last year, and everything had happened so fast. But they’re a much more focused group than they were before, now. We’ve always struggled with our short game, and there’s times where we still are. But they’re a much more focused group than they were before. We’ve always struggled with the short game, and we still are. But they practice so much on perfecting it. Now, they’re ready for the next level. We just have to take it one game at a time.”

Class D Far West Regional

Friendship/Scio 000 201 0 – 3 3 1

Westfield 000 000 0 – 0 0 0

F/S – Nevaeh Ross (WP) (CG, 14K) and Morghyn Ross.

WES – Haleigh Dellow (LP) (CG, 9K) and Sydney Hotchkiss.

PHOTO GALLERY BY TRICIA DAVENPORT

PHOTO GALLERY BY CHRIS BROOKS

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