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By Lacey Gardner

Wellsville softball wins state championship! Home runs by Adams, Dunbar; Cowburn pitching

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ROARING FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP: For very 1st time, Wellsville softball finishes the job, win Class B State Championship in dominating fashion with 7-1 win over Section II’s Schuylerville 

Photos by Tricia Davenport, story by Chris Brooks

BELLPORT — There is a reason why the lion is proclaimed as the king of the jungle. It is an animal that strikes fear towards anything and everything that crosses its path, all behind the prevalent combination of its majesty, power and just pure, unadulterated strength. 

The mighty lion also possesses a roar like no other in the animal kingdom. One that is so powerful, that when transmitted, it can be heard from up to five miles away. 

The Wellsville Lady Lions have carved their warpath ever since the start of the season. They have held one of the biggest targets on their back while being hunted. But at the same time, they were doing some hunting themselves. They were not going to let anyone impede them from their ultimate goal: Winning everything the Empire State had to offer. 

The word revolving around this pride of Lady Lions was a 10-letter appellation. A word that has been used over and over again.

Determined — A word of great focus and sheer will.

Their adherence and pertinacity has been awestriking. And it has all guided them to the very last day of the season. For seniors Makenzie Cowburn, Brazen Beckwith, Sawyer Burke and Marissa Ordway, it was also the very last time they would ever put on the Wellsville uniform in their distinguished high school careers. 

The Class B State Championship. It was a realm of unfamiliarity. But, it was a realm they absolutely wanted to gain entrance to. 

NY Land Quest congratulates all student athletes

Wellsville did just that with the ascension over the Final Four’s Semifinal hurdle last night against Section III’s Marcellus Lady Mustangs, setting the dinner table for an opportunity to face off against Section II’s Schuylerville Lady Horses — a team also seeking glory for the first time ever, in a game for everything.

A chance to complete the season of all seasons.

Behind a stellar display of defense led by Cowburn in the circle, as well as some tremendous bats showcased by the likes of Makenna Dunbar and Natalie Adams — two softball pyromaniacs who, as of late, loved to set the batter’s box on fire every time they stepped foot within its confines.

You didn’t think they were going to stop there, did you?

The Lady Lions have organized and orchestrated fast starts to their game all throughout the postseason. They have not lost a beat. On the biggest day of their lives, on a clear and illuminous afternoon at the Martha Avenue Recreation Park in Bellport, it would prove to be no different. 

Following Schuylerville’s first run of the game out of the gate, it would be their last. After two innings of hard work on defense to keep the Section II stalwarts at bay, they soon found the opening they so desired. 

Their response to the Lady Horses, septupled, creating an avalanche of consistent scoring beginning in the bottom of the second with a run that leveled the playing surface again. A short time later, Dunbar and Adams laid the lumber down, accounting for the next four runs across a damaging two-inning sequence behind their detrimental home runs to give the Lady Lions even more room to work with.

With the advantage firmly in their possession, it was now on the defense to do what they set out to do: Finish the job.

In the final act of their 2024 campaign, the Lady Lions let out a mighty roar that can be felt over six hours away from home.

The final out was recorded, and soon, a plethora of gloves flew into the air. The mad dash to the center of the field then followed. For the first time since the girls volleyball program last accomplished such a feat back in 1993, Wellsville has a New York State winner. 

The 31-year wait for the Lady Lions is now history, making history of their own right with the softball program’s first ever Class B State Championship — a moment in time that will live on forever, as they knocked off Schuylerville with a 7-1 victory to finish off their season in remarkable and unprecedented fashion.

“What a crazy couple of days, but what a great feeling it is. Everyone knows that this has been the goal. After losing last year, it left a sour taste. But making it to the Finals this year is an amazing thing,” Lady Lions co-coach Shelley Chaffee said. “They worked so hard and they all came together to make this happen. Listening to everything the coaches suggested, making all the adjustments they needed to make. They’re an intelligent bunch on the field, and it’s a great feeling to see them all experience this first time feeling. Coach (Matt) Burke was a huge part of this, and there is no denying the success this program has been able to have after what he has been able to build over the years. He’s as big of a part of this as anything. We had to travel a long way to get to the Finals and to see the amount of people that came out to support, including some alumni of the program, was incredible. The Mudville Tournament, the Sectional Finals, the Regionals and now this. We have amazing parents, administration and fans, and we cannot thank everybody enough for all of their support.” 

At this stage of the game, nothing was going to come easy. Absolutely nothing. The Lady Lions knew that right from the start when the Lady Horses showcased some rapid horsepower of their own with a sacrifice bunt and a single into the outfield to help account for their first and only run of the game to gain the leading edge. 

Then, Wellsville assumed control. 

After a sterling display of defense across the next tenures in the field to keep Schuylerville frozen, the Lady Lions then took matters into their own hands by posting a game-tying run stemming off a thunderous RBI double from the bat of Averee Palmatier in the bottom of the second. Then, Makenna Dunbar brought the lightning one inning later, launching a three-run detonation that gave the Lady Lions their first lead of the game, putting them in a position that they never looked back from again.

After the defense held Schuylerville still once again with just one hit, they went back to work. And this time, Natalie Adams made well enough sure that the offense’s cataclysm at the plate continued, skyrocketing a shot out of the park herself to make a solo trip around the bases, extending Wellsville’s lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“Makenna has been working so hard to improve her game. She works after hours, she goes to the batting cage with her older brother Logan, she possesses such power and she has been absolutely amazing for us,” Chaffee said. “Natalie and Averee too, they have been very silent but they also have been very impressive. In the last couple of games, they have been the ones that have helped us really get going. It’s so nice to see that with the lineup as it is, the other teams usually focus at the top of the lineup. That allows the bottom of it to really open up and make some noise of its own.”

If that wasn’t enough, the Lady Lions saw even more help come to their aid. Two more scores proceeded to finish off another three-run stanza, with Marissa Ordway furthering the cause with a big double to center field, scoring pinch runner Brynn Hallock, and then a crucial sacrifice bunt laid down by Sawyer Burke at the top of the lineup, plating pinch runner Hailey Cowburn. 

Just a little bit of everything to keep making the world go around. 

Wellsville’s advantage remained at six for the remainder of the game, as from the fifth inning all the way until the final out was secured by Adams at second base, the Lady Lions forced a complete shutdown of Schuylerville to ultimately make their full convergence on the State’s top prize for the very first time in program history after another flawless tenure of defense.

That was spearheaded by Makenzie Cowburn, who was the benefactor in keeping the Lady Horses idle since the game-opening run in the top of the first inning, going the distance to strike out nine and walk two in her final performance of her phenomenally sublime Wellsville career.

“We had another error-free game and we actually had a girl in a rundown late in the game. The first batter in the sixth got on with a single, and then Makenzie came up with two big strikeouts after that. On another hit that worked to Makenna in the outfield, she fired a throw back to second to catch their lead runner in a pickle, which allowed Lindsay (Stuck) to put a big tag on for the last out. That was an amazing play that really helped us keep control behind Makenzie,” Chaffee said. “She was outstanding in the circle after that first walk saw Schuylerville score their run. It was a legitimate hit they had, and she might have been a little nervous because of it. But from that point on, she really settled down. Getting that run in the second, that calmed everybody down. We haven’t been down much all year, but when we are, we don’t fold. We continue to work, and once that third inning ended, the girls took a deep breath and kept playing their game.”

The Lady Lions ended the day with seven runs off 10 big hits at the dish, led by Averee Palmatier, who finished with a 3-for-3 outing, including two doubles and two RBI. Marissa Ordway and Sawyer Burke each had two hits, with both of Burke’s knocks coming on bunts. Natalie Adams finished with two hits including her solo homer. 

The team was also awarded with another Sportsmanship Award from the State. 

Talk about a picture perfect way to close out a historic season.

“We told the girls that they were going to make Wellsville history no matter what happens today,” Chaffee said. “We are so proud of them for completing this game on top, and hopefully this keeps building success for the future ahead. We had four JV girls come up and experience this with us, and they are going to be big pieces for when they enter the fold on the Varsity team next year. We were also awarded with a team sportsmanship award from the State as well. It’s a great honor for the girls to be acknowledged for that. Everything paid off, and the schedule we had was set up to challenge them. To make them even more successful against who they played so they can achieve what we were able to achieve today.”

And with the Empire State’s grand prize, the first of its kind for the softball program heading back home with them on the bus, the Lady Lions have traded in that sour taste for a sweet, sweet cherry on top to close out their 2024 campaign, as they conclude with a record of 23-1 overall. 

It will be a late night when the team returns home, but at 10 a.m. the following morning, the Lady Lions, joined by now two-time track and field State champion Kaylee Oswald, will take their trip all around Wellsville atop of the fire trucks to celebrate their victory in its entirety.

As for their four seniors, Cowburn, Beckwith, Burke and Ordway, it was the last game they will ever play for the Lady Lions. But Chaffee says that the impact they have made will continue to reverberate in the time to come.

“We talked about the seniors all year long. They’ve been here since day one. Four Sectional titles, two Final Fours and to win it in the end, what a way to send them out. Their leadership is top notch. What they do to inspire the team with their play and also their words that are spoken to the underclassmen, is unmatched,” she said. “All of them are going on to play in college. Their lives have been surrounded by this game and this couldn’t be a better send-off for them. They love it so much. They’re going to be big shoes to fill next year, no doubt. But the girls and the skills they have learned, as well as their leadership qualities, they will now leave those behind for the younger girls to pick up on.”

We at WellsvilleSports.com would like to issue our most profound congratulations to Coaches Chaffee and McLaughlin and the Lady Lions on a tremendous and historic 2024 season. We wish all four seniors nothing but the very best in their bright futures ahead of them.

Schuylerville 100 000 0 – 1 7 2 

Wellsville 013 300 X – 7 10 0

SCH – Sophia Wahl (LP) (CG, 6K, 3BB) and Cat Carpenter.

WLSV – Makenzie Cowburn (WP) (CG, 9K, 2BB) and Brazen Beckwith.

Photos by Tricia Davenport:

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