FREWSBURG - As her team moved about in the visitor's dugout, glumly packing up gear for the last time this season, Chautauqua Lake coach Sue Teets could only shake her head and sigh.
"There's got to be a winner and a loser," she said, "but I just hate being on this side every year with them."
Yes, it's been a tough couple of postseasons for the Lady Thunderbirds, and it didn't get any better this time around as the top-seeded Frewsburg Bears knocked fifth-seeded Chautauqua Lake from the Section 6 Class C playoffs in the semifinal round for the second time in three seasons on an overcast Tuesday afternoon, 6-2.
Photo by Rob Tucker
Chautauqua Lake’s Jessie Herrington takes a swing during her team’s Section 6 Class C semifinal softball game against Frewsburg on Tuesday, in Frewsburg.
Chautauqua Lake fell to Frewsburg, 12-0, in the semifinals during the 2011 playoffs and, more recently, suffered a slim, 12-11 defeat in the quarterfinals last year when Frewsburg's Emily Hair delivered a two-out, bases loaded single in the bottom of the seventh.
In this one, Teets thought her team was ready to snap the streak.
"I feel like we were very close to breaking something open," Teets lamented. "We scrapped out a couple of runs, but unfortunately it just didn't happen for us."
No such issues for the squad in the opposite dugout.
Whereas the timely hits never came for the Lady Thunderbirds (14-6), the Bears got plenty in the first inning alone - plenty enough, as it would turn out, to secure the victory right then and there.
Two big hits - the first by Sam Mott and the second by Annie Berg - accounted for the Bears' four first-inning runs.
After leadoff hitter Reyanne Strong reached on an error and Shawna Raymond legged out a bunt single, McKenzie Cass laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third.
Then up to the plate stepped Mott, who promptly broke the scoreless tie when she lined a single up the middle off Chautauqua Lake starting pitcher Lauren Cummings - just past the outstretched glove of shortstop Jessie Herrington - to push across the game's first two scores.
Next, it was Berg's turn.
The senior laced Cummings' offering into deep center over outfielder Luci Sena's head. And heeding the words of first-base coach Tom Mott, who told her to be "thinking four" as she rounded first, Berg never stopped running; cruising by second and then past the windmilling arm of head coach Jon Blanchard at third all the way across home for the two-run roundtripper that put her squad ahead, 4-0.
"(Annie) has hit a couple of (home runs) this season," Blanchard said, before adding with a smile, "and it was nice to see one today."
It was a welcome quick start for the Bears, who in their previous playoff contest with Allegany-Limestone had trailed 2-0 before bouncing back with six runs over the final three frames for the victory.
"We know we can hit the ball," Blanchard said. "And you saw that in the first inning. I think we are playing well right now. They know what to expect from each other, no one is putting pressure on anybody else and they're playing and winning as a team right now.
"It's really nice to see."
Along with Mott, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Berg, Shawna Raymond had three hits in four at-bats with a run scored and a run driven in; Strong would score two runs; and Hair would connect for two hits.
Cummings (two strikeouts, 10 hits) settled in after the first, allowing only two more runs the rest of the way, but by then the win had already slipped from her grasp.
Especially with Mott in the circle.
The right hander, who seemingly gets strong the deeper into the playoffs her squad goes, surrendered just two runs (one in the fifth and one in the seventh) on four hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts over seven innings to help advance the Bears into the sectional final for the third straight season.
The Bears (16-6) can make it three straight Class C titles with a victory on Saturday.
"It feels good, it always feels good to win," Blanchard said. "It's really nice to get back to the finals and have a chance to repeat."
The title game is slated to begin at 3 p.m., at the Martin Road Complex, against the winner of the No. 2 Cassadaga Valley and No. 3 Cattaraugus-Little Valley semifinal contest, which was postponed on Tuesday due to rain.
NOTES: Herrington scored both of Chautauqua Lake's runs, while teammates Luci Sena, Gina Sena, Ashley Moulton (RBI) and Cummings each delivered a hit apiece.