Champs thunder back

Chautauqua Lake bats come alive in the later innings to beat Falconer, 8-1

OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli Chautauqua Lake shortstop Katelyn Fardink fields a ground ball during Tuesday’s Class C1 sectional semifinal softball game against Falconer, in Mayville.

MAYVILLE — Earlier this season, after a 1-0 win over Dunkirk in Mayville, Chautauqua Lake pitcher Olivia Anderson said that she loved pitching under pressure in a 1-0 game. Tuesday, Anderson felt the pressure as much as ever, on the other side of the scoreboard, down by a run through four innings against Falconer.

In what was her final game in Mayville regardless of the result, Anderson came through with her bat, then finished it off with her arm, to lead her Lady Thunderbirds past the Falconer Lady Falcons, 8-1, in a Class C1 game softball sectional semifinal, Tuesday, at Chautauqua Lake High School.

“I knew this would be a tough test. They’re up and coming, and it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season,” said Chautauqua Lake head coach Sue Teets.

Chautauqua Lake scored eight runs on 10 hits over the final two trips to the plate to down Falconer (12-9, 4-seed) to keep its playoff run alive for at least another game.

“I did feel extra pressure, because I did feel like that could have been my last game,” said Anderson. “I think it really helped me, because my best games come when I’m under pressure.”

OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli Chautauqua Lake pitcher Olivia Anderson delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s Class C1 sectional semifinal softball game, against Falconer, at Chautauqua Lake High School, in Mayville.

“We knew we had to play flawless to hang with them,” said Falconer head coach Mike Youngberg. “We knew to get any recognition, we would have to hang right there with them. We felt like we could, and we did for two thirds of the game, just not the whole game.”

Anderson said after that same Dunkirk game earlier in the year that it usually takes her team until the fifth inning to get the bats going. On Tuesday, she could not have been more right. With just two hits through the fourth inning, Chautauqua Lake (14-4, 1-seed) struck in the fifth with three runs on four hits.

“I think we realized, down 1-0 in a playoff game, this could possibly be the last game for all five seniors here,” said Anderson. “We needed to win, and the fifth inning is typically when we realize that. I wish it was sooner, but that’s typically when we figure it out.”

After a leadoff single by Megan Fischer, the Lady Thunderbirds had two runners on base and two outs when Katelyn Fardink came to the plate. Another one of the five senior starters for Chautauqua Lake, Fardink drilled a two-out RBI double to right-center field to tie the game at 1-1. Anderson followed in the order and gave herself a lead on a single to right field to score a pair. Cianna Braymiller followed with a single for the fourth hit in the inning before the frame came to a close.

“I had a really far foul ball before that, so I felt a good hit coming,” said Anderson. “Their defense was pretty far back so I just tried to pop it in and luckily it went right over (the fielder’s) glove.”

Once Anderson had the lead, it was going to be tough enough for Falconer to take the advantage away. That hill got a whole lot steeper in the bottom of the sixth inning, as the Lady Thunderbirds poured on five more runs on the strength of six hits in the inning. After a leadoff single by Lily Studley for her second hit of the game, Fischer beat out a bunt for a hit. Then, eighth grade JV call-up Jenna Waters delivered the knock out blow, with a two-run double to extend the lead to 5-1 in favor of the defending state champions.

“That was awesome,” said Coach Teets. “She was a part of our State run last year, but she didn’t hit last year — we hit (Fischer) for her. … I was so happy for her.”

Chadelynn Johnson added an RBI single down the third base line, then Kendra Keyser joined in on the fun with a two-run single to pull ahead 8-1 after six innings.

“I felt a little comfortable then — just a little,” joked Coach Teets.

Anderson did the rest, striking out a pair in a shutout seventh inning to earn the complete game win. Anderson finished with 11 strikeouts, with only six hits and no walks.

“Liv (Anderson) was bringing it,” said Coach Teets. “Once she gets that lead, she starts to bring it.”

For Falconer, some solace can be found in holding a lead on the defending state champions on the road, against the top Class C pitcher in NY State. After Claudia Russell’s RBI single on a sinking line drive under the glove of Fardink at shortstop, the Lady Falcons showed the rest of the Section VI softball landscape that Falconer is here to stay.

“We definitely have a bright future. We only have two seniors on the team, and if everybody else comes back out next year and works as hard as they did this year, we’ll be in good shape,” said Coach Youngberg.

The Lady Thunderbirds now advance to the Class C1 final on Thursday at St. Bonaventure University, against 2-seed Portville. Tuesday, however, was a fitting way for all five Chautauqua Lake seniors to end their home softball careers, with a hard-fought victory.

“I’m so, so grateful to have played here,” said Anderson. “This is where my favorite memories have been. I’ve had such an amazing experience. … That was an amazing last game.”

Twitter: @bradencarmen