Palisin, Lucas lead Fredonia past Westfield

Fredonia starting pitcher Danielle Palisin threw five innings without an earned run allowed in a win over the Westfield Wolverines on Thursday at Westfield Academy. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

WESTFIELD — Two of the elite softball programs in recent years clashed on Thursday evening, as the back-to-back Section VI champion Fredonia ‘Billies took on the back-to-back sectional champion Westfield Wolverines.

Even in a new season with a few new faces stepping into the spotlight for a majority of the action, the game certainly still lived up to the hype. In the end, it was the visiting ‘Billies who walked away from Westfield Academy with a hard-fought victory, 6-4, in one of the more competitive nonleague softball contests the section could have hoped for.

“Anytime you get a win against a team like this, that has had a lot of success, it’s always nice,” said Fredonia head coach Jesse Beers.

A Westfield graduate and former Westfield softball coach himself, Beers was happy to earn the win in the unfamiliar visiting dugout over a friend and childhood rival, Shawn Gnadzinski, who now coaches Westfield.

Despite Division I pitcher Jordan Lucas at its disposal, Fredonia instead turned to Danielle Palisin in the pitcher’s circle on Thursday. With her father, Matt, the sports information director and former baseball coach at Fredonia State looking on, Danielle pitched like an ace worthy of the attention her teammate often receives.

Fredonia pitcher Jordan Lucas (21) closed out a 6-4 win over the Westfield Wolverines on Thursday with two shutout innings to earn the save. Lucas struck out six of the seven batters she faced. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

“If she played on another team in our county, she would more than likely be everyone else’s No. 1. She’s that good,” Beers said.

Eleven batters in, Palisin had faced the minimum. A second-inning single was the only blemish on her line with two outs in the fourth inning, and even that baserunner was erased on a strong throw from catcher Callie Draggett to nab Westfield’s only baserunner to that point attempting to steal. Fredonia was comfortably ahead 4-0 with one out to go to finish the fourth frame.

“We were rolling. Things were going smooth,” Beers said.

But then the game changed in a hurry. Fredonia (3-0) committed three errors in the infield, with the third giving Westfield its first run. The bases remained loaded.

Westfield (3-3) mounted its first threat of the game without a hard hit ball until Drew Ernewein blistered a deep drive to left field. All three runners on base came in to score and, just like that, Westfield tied the game at 4-4.

Westfield pitcher Mackenzie Schumaker delivers a pitch during Thursday’s non-league softball game at Westfield Academy against the Fredonia ‘Billies. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

“She has really been on fire the whole season,” Westfield head coach Shawn Gnadzinski said of Ernewein.

Noting his team’s resilience to battle back to tie the game, Gnadzinski said, “I told the girls, (Fredonia) is expecting to go to state. … Let them feel us. Let them know that we can play, too, and leave here with respect.”

While stating her team needs to more quickly rebound from an error, Lucas said,

“We’re human, we’re not robots. We make mistakes.”

Fredonia responded in the top of the fifth inning with a run coming across the plate on a throw down to first base after a dropped third strike. The ‘Billies then picked up an insurance run in the top half of the sixth inning, as Lucas drilled a ball to left field for her third hit of the game.

Lucas noted that her father, Kevin, was critiquing her swing from a game against Falconer earlier in the week. Prior to Thursday’s game, Lucas filmed herself correcting her swing in the batting cage and sent it to her father as proof. Three hits and two runs batted in later, punctuated by a line drive ripped to left field to bring in a run in the sixth inning, all was right for Fredonia’s star.

Prior to that, Palisin dueled with Westfield’s young pitcher, Mackenzie Schumaker, throughout the first five innings, as the next era of pitchers between the two strong programs took over the circle. The back-to-back sectional champion pitcher of Westfield, Haleigh Dellow, is now off playing Division I softball at George Mason University, while Lucas is set to join Dellow in the same conference next year at St. Bonaventure University.

Fredonia showed how nice it is to have a Division I talent to turn to when the game is on the line. With a two-run cushion, Fredonia turned to Lucas to close out the game and she shut the lights out on the Wolverines.

After a one-out walk, with the tying run at the plate, Lucas closed out the sixth inning with back-to-back strikeouts. Her velocity, at times, was overpowering, as she blew the heater by multiple hitters. She also showed off her deception with a screwball in the seventh inning that had a batter turning out of the way of the pitch, only for it to finish right over the plate for a called third strike.

Lucas faced seven batters in the final two innings. She struck out six of them.The only blemish was a walk to the second batter she faced, but Lucas responded in typical fashion, referring to a mentality she has consistently stated dating back to before she even announced her college commitment. In her own words, “Good for you. … It’s not going to happen again.'”

The win was credited to Palisin, who did not allow an earned run through five innings. She only allowed three hits, did not issue a walk, and struck out three. All four unearned runs came in the fourth inning, with four shutout innings around it. “She threw fantastic,” Beers said.

Schumaker pitched six innings with six runs allowed (four earned), to go with seven strikeouts. While only allowing five hits, she struggled with her command, allowing 11 walks. Gnadzinski credited Keara Kincaid for strong defense behind the plate, a position usually occupied by Sydney Hotchkiss, who played third base on Thursday. Freshman Avery Smith pitched a shutout seventh inning for Westfield.

“(Kincaid) behind the plate just did a great job,” Gnadzinski said. “… She really kept it close and gave us a chance at the end to try to win.”

Lucas earned the save, which was unfamiliar to the Fredonia ace, but she found a way to find comfort in the new role for the day.

“I loved it, honestly,” Lucas said. “I came here like, ‘I’m Jordan, I’m the closer, nice to meet you.'”

In the end, the pleasure was all hers.


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