The old adage that defense wins championships rang true again Wednesday night as the Dunkirk Lady Marauders used the formula to win their second straight Section 6 B-1 title at Promenschenkel Stadium.
The Lady Marauders defense kept the game scoreless until they were finally able to break through in the fourth and fifth innings en route to an 8-1 over top seed Depew to advance to the B-1/B-2 final against Cleveland Hill on Saturday.
"Our defense kept us in the game until our bats showed up," Dunkirk coach John Sliwa said.
OBSERVER?Photo by Roger Coda
Dunkirk’s Brittany Collins, right, gets the force out at first base during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class B-1 championship game at Promenschenkel Stadium.
The Lady Marauders had to rely on their defense early on as the Lady Wildcats were hitting the ball hard off Dunkirk starting pitcher Aldyn Carlson.
"Aldyn wasn't completely sharp like she should be and Depew's a good hitting club," Sliwa said of his pitcher's early struggles. "She wasn't hitting her spots early. She was getting up high in the zone."
Fortunately, the defense behind her was spectacular as Kati Hanlon made three great catches in left field, and Kelsey Drummond was able to snare a line drive in the first two innings. However, it was Carlson's defensive play that may have changed the game.
In the top of the fourth inning, Depew had runners at first and third with one out when Sam Wayne tried to squeeze home a run. Her bunt attempt popped in the air, and Carlson made a spectacular catch as she collided with her sister and battery mate, Alayna, to record the out and keep Depew off the board.
"Keeping them off the board was very, very important," Sliwa said. "Softball is a game of momentum. Getting the first run is always important. You get a lead and everything else changes."
The Lady Marauders carried that momentum into the bottom of the frame as they were finally able to break through. Khee Nance roped a double to start the inning and advanced to third on a fly out. She remained there following a ground out and a walk by Lacey Clark. Joyce Bomasoto then hit a bloop that the second baseman dropped, which allowed both runners to score and Dunkirk to take a 2-0 lead.
Depew immediately responded in the top of the fifth inning. Carlson retired the first two batters she faced before beaning Kelsey Grosch, who promptly advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Kirstie Dlugosz ripped a grounder to left to plate Grosch and cut the advantage in half. However, that is as close as the Lady Wildcats would get as Carlson induced a ground out one batter later to end the frame.
The flood gates opened in the bottom of the fifth inning as Dunkirk scored six runs. After a ground out started the inning, Sam Thompson and Alayna Carlson had back-to-back singles to put runners in scoring position. Nance followed with a single of her own to extend the lead back to two runs and put runners at the corners. Drummond was intentionally walked to load the bases before Hanlon and Lacey Clark had consecutive two-run singles to right field to break the game open. Brittany Collins capped the scoring with a RBI single of her own to make it 8-1.
"[It was] huge," Sliwa said of his team extending the lead. "I knew there was no quit in that team (Depew). They're a great program. ... To make it 8-1 is huge because then they basically have to go through their order, which makes you relax a little bit."
Sliwa could also relax because Carlson settled into a groove on the mound. After taking the seven-run advantage, she all but silenced the Depew bats as five of the next six batters she faced were retired until Dlugosz reached on a strikeout with two outs in the seventh. Gorski singled and Yaskow walked to load the bases, but Carlson coaxed a ground out to second to seal the victory.
"She's (Carlson) not a strikeout pitcher," Sliwa noted. Her job is to keep the ball low in the zone and let her defense make plays. ... Her pitch that she noramlly goes to wasn't there. So, she found a different pitch to attack with, and it worked well."
Carlson still threw a complete game five-hitter with four strikeouts and two walks despite not having her go-to pitch to earn the win.
Nance led the offensive attack for Dunkirk with a single, double, two runs and a RBI, while Clark and Hanlon both had two-run singles.
The Lady Marauders now turn their attention to the B-1/B-2 crossover game Saturday at 7 p.m. against Cleveland Hill at Promenschenkel Stadium.
"We saw Cleveland Hill a little bit, and they're going to battle." Sliwa said. "We have our work cut out for us as always, but we just have to do what we do. We have to play Dunkirk softball."