Dunkirk falls to Falconer

Golden Falcons score six runs in final two innings to top Lady Marauders

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Dunkirk’s Kymi Nance catches a fly ball in center field during Wednesday’s game against Falconer at Dunkirk High School.

Falconer came into frigid Dunkirk on Wednesday ready to make a statement, looking to prove it was every bit the team that had a lead going into the seventh inning against Chautauqua Lake earlier in the season.

After two of the first three batters reached base in the top of the first inning against Dunkirk, then both came in to score on a two-out single by Claudia Russell, it was clear Falconer was off to a good start.

As it turned out, their finish was even better.

The Falconer Golden Falcons scored six runs in the final two innings of Wednesday’s contest to beat the Dunkirk Lady Marauders, 8-6, in a CCAA Division 1 West softball game at Dunkirk High School.

“This says they are fighters. They are competitors,” said Falconer head coach Mike Youngberg of his team after Wednesday’s win.

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Falconer starting pitcher Ashley Pierce winds up to deliver a pitch during Wednesday’s game at Dunkirk High School.

Dunkirk, however, struggled to battle the cold and could not overcome their mistakes in Wednesday’s loss.

“This game humbled us, early in the season, which is good. It’s what we needed,” said Dunkirk head coach Michelle Gilmour.

Falconer (3-1, 3-1) held a 2-0 lead after the top of the first innning after Russell’s single, then held Dunkirk (2-1, 1-1) in check in the bottom half of the first inning, despite a pair of Lady Marauders reaching base safely. Falconer was kept off the scoreboard in the top of the second inning, then Dunkirk stormed back to take the lead with a big second inning.

Olivia Yerico-Piazza led off the bottom of the second inning with a double. She was then followed by consecutive hits by Monica Pokoj, Jessica Beehler and Jamaledie Pacheco to give Dunkirk a 3-2 lead. Pacheco came in to score later in the inning on an RBI single by Dunkirk’s Ashley Gotowka to put the Lady Marauders ahead by two runs, after two innings.

“We were being extremely aggressive, which is something we’ve been talking about improving on the last couple of games,” said Coach Gilmour.

In the top of the third frame, Falconer had the first two batters of the inning reach base. However, Dunkirk quickly put an end to the potential rally, after Dunkirk centerfielder Kymi Nance caught a line drive and threw to second base to double-off the lead runner. Dunkirk’s pitcher, Gotowka, finished the frame with a strikeout to keep the lead intact.

Each team went down 1-2-3 in its next turn at the plate. The Lady Marauders ran into tough luck in the bottom of the fourth inning, as the first two batters of the inning hit hard line-drives right at a Falconer defender, before Kaitlyn Davis finally found a hole for a base hit. She was left stranded, however, sending the game into the fifth inning.

After four solid innings in the circle for Dunkirk with only three hits and three walks, Gotowka left the circle in favor of Pokoj. Gilmour said that a big part of the decision was the team’s schedule this week. Wednesday was the second of four straight days with games for the Lady Marauders, and the first of three straight league games to finish the week.

“We have four games in four days. We have a big game against Chautauqua Lake (today) and another big game against Silver Creek on Friday. So with three league games, we thought we would try splitting the pitching time,” said Coach Gilmour. “I thought both pitchers played well, especially in the cold. They adapted fairly well.”

“It gave us an opportunity we may not have had,” said Coach Youngberg of the pitching change. “She’s a good pitcher, we’ve played against her in the past. This was just one of those days.”

In her first inning of work, Pokoj looked every bit as solid as she was a year ago for the Lady Marauders in the circle. She set the Golden Falcons down in order in the top of the fifth inning.

“We went to sleep in the middle innings,” said Coach Youngberg. “It’s very uncharacteristic. The bats got quiet. Usually, I have to tell them not to be so aggressive.”

Dunkirk looked poised to add insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning, after Dunkirk had a pair of runners on base with only one out. Pokoj hit into a fielder’s choice up the middle, then Beehler struck out with runners on the corners to end the inning.

As the game advanced to the sixth inning, though down a pair, Falconer wasn’t intimidated by the moment. The Golden Falcons took advantage of Dunkirk’s mistakes in the sixth inning to come from behind to claim the lead. Macy Youngberg and Nicole Youngberg each reached base to start the inning, on an infield single followed by a walk. Then after an out, Falconer’s next two batters each reached on walks, with three passed balls in the inning leading to two runs to cross the plate to tie the score at 4-4. A fielder’s choice where a runner on third came in to score led to Falconer claiming the lead, 5-4, still with one out in the sixth inning. Eight batters came to bat in the inning.

Dunkirk still wouldn’t give up, however, immediately answering with a triple to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning by Pacheco. Davis picked up an RBI on a groundout to tie the game at 5-5, with only one inning left to play.

“It was good to see, this early in the season, that they weren’t going down without a fight,” said Coach Gilmour.

Falconer quickly grabbed the lead back in the same fashion it did in the prior inning, by capitalizing on Dunkirk’s mistakes. Leadoff hitter Alex Rivera singled up the middle after a long at-bat, then Macy Youngberg singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. Another passed ball gave Falconer the go-ahead run, 6-5, then Nicole Youngberg drilled the ball off the wall in left field for an RBI triple. She later scored on another passed ball, to give Falconer a three-run lead, 8-5.

Dunkirk added a run in the bottom of the seventh inning and brought the tying run to the plate, but Falconer closed out the game with a strikeout of Beehler to leave the runner stranded.

“We came away with a victory. Against a good team like Dunkirk, we were lucky to get away with the win, but they played good enough to do it,” said Coach Youngberg.

The Lady Marauders now are tasked with rebounding against the defending NY State Champions, Chautauqua Lake, in Mayville today.

Falconer now heads into a non-league game against Brocton today with a 3-1 record, all coming in one of Western New York’s most competitive leagues.

“It definitely is huge for us, to move to 3-1 in the league, and even the one loss, we had a lead against Chautauqua Lake going into the seventh inning,” said Coach Youngberg of his team’s success this year. “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls.”

Falconer pitcher Ashley Pierce earned the win, pitching all seven innings. She allowed 11 hits, six runs, walked three, but struck out five.

“Ashley (Pierce) is a very good, determined pitcher,” said Coach Youngberg of his pitcher. “Our other pitcher got hurt (Tuesday) so we didn’t have a choice. We had to leave our pitcher in.”

Pokoj was saddled with the loss after pitching three innings, allowing six runs, four hits and three walks.

Twitter: @bradencarmen