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Wellsville softball drops season opener, 4-3 to St. Mary’s

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By CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com

DUBOIS, Pa. — After unforeseen circumstances tabled their scheduled season opener against Attica back on Thursday, the time to hit the road had come for the Lady Lions of Wellsville, bright and early Monday morning.

For the State Final Four Finalist’s first outing on the field, they would set the dinner table for a three-game set over Spring Break down south, with a pitstop in DuBois, PA and a meeting with the St. Mary’s Lady Dutch on the docket.

Right at the end of last season, the two foes met at Tullar Field in a closely-knit encounter between two high-ranking squads that were in the midst of playing their very best softball. The 6-2 victory for the Lady Lions would serve as a momentous foundational piece in a Sectional trek that saw them capture their third straight championship.

Lest we forget, a collection of their first Class B Far West Regional title in over 20 years along the way, putting it towards what was a historic 23-2 campaign. 

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This next time around down below the border by a mere two hours, the two softball powerhouses reconvened to settle the score once again in another clash that did not disappoint.

Unlike last year’s battle, where the majority of the scoring took place in the opening sequences, the script was flipped completely when a scoreless tie was shared on the scoreboard entering the fifth inning of play. That would allow the host Lady Dutch to break the ice at the drop of hat, claiming the game’s first lead in the same swing.

Wellsville would not back down however. Despite the Lady Dutch and their booming response, the Lady Lions would remain right behind them, chasing down their coattails every step of the way. With each team trading scoreless barbs across the penultimate frame of play, it would all come down to the seventh inning.

The Lady Lions made their final at-bats worthwhile with two enormous connections of the bat, including the team’s first field-exiting detonation in clutch fashion to create level playing ground.

With all of the pressure now mounted against St. Mary’s, the ball was on their side of the court. And with it, they returned the favor with a ravenous strike of their own, sending a pitch into right field with the game-winning run cycling all the way home from second base to win the game for the Lady Dutch in thrilling, walk-off fashion by a 4-3 count. 

Aside from the offenses delivering haymakers down the stretch in the last three innings of play, Wellsville (0-1) and St. Mary’s settled in and showcased a defensive slugfest headlined by both Makenzie Cowburn and Lady Dutch hurler Avery Eckels in the circle, as each went back-and-forth to rapidly shell out four consecutive shutout innings to keep their respective opposition at a standstill.

The scoreless clinic being assembled on both sides carried on into the fifth inning, where St. Mary’s would receive the best of both worlds, beginning with a shutout-ending, three run bottom half of action led by a big two-run double to the left field wall. The Lady Dutch would continue holding Wellsville frozen across the plate, despite a phenomenal effort to tilt the balance of power in their favor immediately after in the top of the sixth.

With one out, the Lady Lions came together to load up all the bases behind the St. Mary’s defense to pile up the pressure. With their backs up against the wall, the Lady Dutch were able to navigate their way off the field off back-to-back strikeouts, leaving every single runner left on base to exit the jam.

The Lady Lions would fire right back a monumental response of their own in the bottom of the sixth, led by Cowburn, who left two big runners on base off back-to-back strikeouts of her own to give the offense one final burst of momentum. 

With it in their possession, Wellsville put it to exceptional use in the top of the seventh with a game-tying three-run stanza which was captained by a lead-off bunt from Sawyer Burke. After Brazen Beckwith dug in and navigated her way on base behind a double to the right center field wall, two big runs were now placed into scoring position.

Their first run came off a sacrifice fly from Makenna Dunbar to deep center field, which allowed Burke to score from third to erase St. Mary’s shutout bid. On the very next at-bat, a brand new game would surface off one herculean swing of the bat from Lindsay Stuck, delivering an atomic bomb to left field — a two-run blast to tie the game at three for the Lady Lions.

The home run was one of nine total hits the team in gray and orange mustered against the Lady Dutch.

Level playing ground was created for what ultimately served as the final stint of the game for the Lady Dutch. With one out separating the two foes from extra innings, St. Mary’s saw the game-winning run reach second base after a walk and put-out back to Cowburn in the circle. 

Two at-bats later, the hosts in blue and red found the perfect connection on a base hit into right field from Eckels, traveling just far enough for the winning run to sprint around to home and end the game.

Cowburn went the distance, holding St. Mary’s to six hits on the attack with seven strikeouts and four walks in her first start of the campaign. At the plate, Sawyer Burke had a pair of hits to lead the way, while Brazen Beckwith recorded a double.

The Lady Lions are back in action tonight, as they hop back onto the bus and proceed further south to Maryland where they will face Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt, with first pitch slated for a 5 p.m. start.

Wellsville 000 000 3 – 3 9 0

St. Mary’s 000 030 1 – 4 6 1

WLSV – Makenzie Cowburn (LP) (CG, 7K, 4BB) and Brazen Beckwith.

STM – Avery Eckels (WP) (CG, 8K) and Gianna Surra.

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