BEMUS POINT - Each day, there are plenty of fine drives hit at the Bemus Point Golf Club.
Lauren Nickerson might have had Friday's best.
The Maple Grove junior, standing in the batter's box at the adjacent softball field, lined a long, two-run home run to left field that was chased down near BPGC's second green. But by the time the ball was returned to the infield, the Lady Red Dragons were already celebrating a dramatic, 5-3, victory over Cassadaga Valley in a Section 6 Class C quarterfinal.
The win vaults No. 4 Maple Grove into the semifinals against No. 1 Frewsburg at 4:45 p.m., Wednesday at the Robert H. Jackson Elementary School Sports Complex. The Bears advanced by holding off No 8 Chautauqua Lake, 12-11.
"This is the season for Maple Grove,'' Lady Red Dragons coach Mary Bartkowski said. "What we're striving for is one more win to get to (the sectional final) at Promenschenkle Stadium (in Dunkirk). That has been our goal.''
Nickerson made sure Maple Grove accomplished its first step.
After Paige Burnett reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Nickerson, who had driven in a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly, took Courtney Vahl's offering on a line to left.
"When Lauren's up to bat,'' Bartkowski said, "I have all the confidence in the world. There's never a doubt that she's going to at least put the ball in play and wherever she hits it it's going to be hard."
Added Nickerson: "I was hoping and praying that she was going to give me a good one to hit. When I fouled one off over the right side, I was saying, 'Give me another one.'''
On the next pitch, Nickerson hit the long game winner.
"Because there's not a fence out there,'' Bartkowski said, "I was worried somebody was going to get hit by a golf ball. That was a shot and a half."
"There's not much you can do,'' allowed Cassadaga Valley coach Ken Balling. "She can hit just about any strike you throw to her and she hits the ball far. We played our outfielder's as deep as we thought she might hit the ball. That was a real poke."
To that point the game was marked by comebacks.
After Nickerson's sacrifice fly in the first, nobody scored again until the Lady Cougars (11-9) pushed across three runs in the fifth off Maple Grove hurler Mackenzie Ellis, highlighted by an RBI triple by Brook Draggett, an RBI single by Kristi Zink and an RBI double by Kelsie Brown. Their 3-1 lead might have been even more had they not spoiled a second-and-third, no-out situation the inning before.
Maple Grove came right back in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of unearned runs that were plated by Taylor Satalino's infield dribbler and Brianne Davis' fielder's choice.
That set the stage for Nickerson's heroics two innings later.
"This hit meant so much to me, just knowing as I crossed home plate I had a cloud of red just surrounding me,'' she said. "It was just a sensational feeling. It was great."