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Dunbar’s two home runs, a year 2000 wait and the prom all part of incredible Wellsville softball win

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THE WAIT IS OVER: Dunbar mashes 2 homers, Cowburn takes control in circle to lead fierce Lady Lions towards ending 23-year absence from States with Class B Far West title over Iroquois  

Photo and story by Chris Brooks, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com

WEBSTER — The year 2000 was the direct turn of the millennium. The first International Space Station crew reported for duty, the controversial Bush v. Gore Presidential Election, movies like Gladiator, Cast Away and Mission: Impossible II were released, and amongst other things, a typical gallon of gas for your automobile was worth $1.26.

In the wide world of sports, Kevin Dyson was stopped short of the goal line when the Rams defeated the Titans in the Super Bowl at the buzzer, the Yankees won that year’s World Series over the Mets, their Subway Series rival, and Tiger Woods had one of the greatest years of his career on the golf course.

A year of prominent significance.

But more locally and close to home, it was the last time that the Wellsville Lady Lions previously experienced being one of four teams remaining in New York State, with high-profile names such as Jen Scutt, Meghan Benedict and Lindsay Loper all leading the charge for legendary head coach Frank Cady during their voyage to the Final Four.

23 years later, they began painting a similar picture. All that remained were the finishing touches.

In their final rendition of Sectional action, the three-time Class B2 champion Lady Lions wanted to make sure it was something of pure beauty. At one point, head coach Matt Burke asked his team to put the hammer down on Section VI champion Iroquois. That request was well-received amongst the group.

Especially by Makenna Dunbar.

If there was any doubt that the Lady Lions weren’t going to make this one of their best seasons in recent memory, none remained after Saturday. The Wellsville sophomore helped propel an offense that recorded 15 hits as a collective against the Lady Chiefs, two of them coming on a pair of two-run bombs in the beginning and the middle to help set up that magnificent finish the program has long awaited since that very turn of the millennium, as they became Class B Far West Regional champions in a destructive and dominant 15-5 victory at Webster Schroeder.

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“I am so proud of what these young ladies have worked so hard to accomplish. I’m so proud of them. Truly, these young ladies deserve to go to the State Final Four,” said Lady Lions coach Matt Burke. “Words cannot put it into how I feel about this moment right now. Iroquois is well-coached, and they came ready to play today. They go back up to Class A next year, but they are well-coached.”

Wellsville’s (22-1) day started on the most brilliant of footnotes right in their first outing at the plate. That would come courtesy of the first of two Dunbar home runs, as she pulverized a deep ball to straight away center field, sailing out of the field in an absolute hurry to crack open the ice. Iroquois’ response would come along just as fast though, as they bounced right back to tie the game at two off an error by the Wellsville defense, as well as an infield shot that was slowed down by the blustery winds, forcing no play to be made.

But that would be all the scoring the Lady Chiefs could produce, despite several more opportunities to cash in being left stranded by the Lady Lions defense. In turn, Wellsville would go on a scoring spree and break the game wide open, scoring the next nine runs in a row, including a three-spot in the bottom of the third that was headlined by a two-run single by Natalie Adams with the bases juiced behind the Iroquois defense.

The go-ahead frame was just a sign of even bigger things to come for the Lady Lions, as they used a massive fourth inning outburst to escape away from Iroquois, conducting service with four RBI-producing smacks in five at-bats from Makenna Dunbar, Makenzie Cowburn, Lindsay Stuck and Natalie Adams to keep the fire burning ever so hot.

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When it was all said and done, Wellsville would go on to record 15 runs off 15 massive hits to set a tone they wanted to set.

“Our offense is one through nine, they can do a lot of damage,” Burke said. “Today, Makenna hit a couple of home runs. That’s not surprising, because that’s what she does. She drives in runs and makes a big difference. We worked our way out of some first inning jitters, and after that, we had our feet right under us and took it from there.”

While Iroquois continuously attempted to chip away at Wellsville’s lead across the last three innings of play, the damage was done. And then some. Before taking their fifth inning term at the plate, the message sent by Coach Burke to the team in the dugout was received loud and clear. With an 11-2 lead in hand and with Dunbar coming to the plate, the sophomore would help put the exclamation point on the team’s day with her second two-run nuclear blast of the game that snuck its way over the left field fence and out.

The dugout soon broke into complete madness after the homer gave the Lady Lions a 13-3 lead, and all of the room they would need to lock up the historic and monumental victory for the program — the first of its kind in 23 years.

While the bats kept pounding away at the plate, Makenzie Cowburn kept her command in the circle through thick and thin for the Lady Lions, going the complete distance while striking out eight and walking three to give her team the victory.

“When we get deeper in the playoffs, the practices are a little bit shorter but they are more focused,” Burke noted. “Makenzie Cowburn came out on a big stage and showed what she’s all about. She puts so much time and effort into it, and it was apparent tonight in the circle what she can do for our team.”

At the plate, the bats were led by Dunbar, who went 3-for-4 with her pair of homers and five RBI total. Sawyer Burke also recorded three hits, while Cowburn, Lindsay Stuck and Emma Dunaway pitched in with two. Brazen Beckwith recorded a two-run double to finish off the scoring for Wellsville in the bottom of the sixth.

At game’s end, the team broke for a mad dash to the bus. Their next destination — Prom.

“They have Prom tonight,” Burke said. “What we talked about was staying focused, and now they’re going to Prom. I’m sure they’re not even thinking about the State Final Four right now. They just want to go and have fun, and that is awesome. I hope they have a great night, and then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do for the Final Four afterwards.”

When the team reconvenes after the weekend, it will be in preparation for their first trip to the State Final Four since 2000, as they now prepare to go for it all with a Semifinal matchup against Section IX’s Marlboro. That battle will take place on Friday at the Moriches Athletic Complex on Long Island, beginning at approximately 4 p.m.

The winner will advance into the State Finals the next day in a 12 p.m. first pitch against either Section IV’s Windsor or Section II’s Ichabod Crane.

Iroquois 020 011 1 – 5 6 1

Wellsville 203 622 X – 15 15 2


IRO – Alexa Chiaramonte (LP) (K, 2BB), Ailey Moran (5) (3K, BB) and Brooklyn Bukaczeski.

WLSV – Makenzie Cowburn (WP) (CG, 8K, 3BB) and Brazen Beckwith.

Chris Brooks photo gallery:

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