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Lucas no-hits Depew as Fredonia claims B1 crown

OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms Fredonia’s Sophia Gullo shows off the Section VI Class B1 championship plaque with teammates following the Hillbillies’ win over Depew in the softball final Thursday in Grand Island.

GRAND ISLAND — Two years ago, Fredonia saw its softball season come to an end at the hands of the Depew Wildcats in the Section VI Class B crossover game.

On Thursday, the teams met with their seasons on the line, but this time in the Section VI Class B1 championship game at Grand Island High School.

Fredonia senior pitcher Jordan Lucas wants her final year to go as long as possible and she made sure the Hillbillies’ continued past Thursday night. The St. Bonaventure-bound Lucas tossed her second no-hitter of the postseason as Fredonia defeated Depew 2-0 to claim its third sectional title in a row.

“I’m a senior, so I’m really not ready to leave yet,” Lucas said. “Depew was a big game, they beat us two years ago in the crossover game and that left a bitter taste in my mouth. Today, I was not losing to Depew, and I really want to get farther than we did last year and keep our season going because I’m not ready to cry yet.”

With a perfect game against Southwestern in the quarterfinals and then a one-hitter against East Aurora in the semifinals, Fredonia has needed very little run support with Lucas in the circle. In the championship game, the Hillbillies got all they needed with the first pitch.

OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms Fredonia pitcher Jordan Lucas celebrates after the final out.

Leadoff batter Naomi Muck hammered a line drive to right field and it tipped right off the glove of the defender to roll all the way to the wall and Muck was able to reach home standing up for the 1-0 lead.

“You never think one run is going to hold up,” Fredonia head coach Jesse Beers said about Muck’s run. “In the back of your head, maybe subconsciously that it could, but we certainly didn’t take that approach. We tried to tack on every single inning, we were bunting, we weren’t going to steal because of how good Vannelli is behind the plate, but we certainly didn’t take our foot off the gas pedal.”

That was all the support Lucas needed, but that didn’t stop the Hillbillies from looking to add more since one swing of the bat could even the game.

The biggest threat to the Fredonia lead was another Division I commit in Depew catcher Mia Vannelli, who is heading to Stony Brook University.

“I was really nervous,” Lucas said about the matchup with Depew. “I’ve gotta hand it, Mia Vannelli is a great hitter and I’ve known her for a couple years. I knew going up there it was going to be a battle. I did walk a couple batters and that’s one thing I take away from this game.”

OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms Fredonia shortstop Naomi Muck catches a pop-up during Thursday’s Section VI Class B1 final against Depew in Grand Island.

Lucas won the first at-bat when Vannelli hit a grounder out to second, but an error put her on base. Then in the next two at-bats she earned walks, even reaching second with teammate Brady Hoffhines on third in the top of the fourth inning.

“They have some dangerous hitters in that lineup,” Beers said about Depew. “Especially Vannelli is a fantastic player. We kind of danced around her a little bit, we kind of intentionally walked her without putting the four up, but things worked out.”

The runners didn’t faze Lucas as a sacrifice bunt was fielded perfectly by Jaelyn Davis at third and back-to-back strikeouts retired the side with the lead still intact.

The only hit Lucas allowed in the semifinal against East Aurora was a perfectly placed bunt and Depew did its homework trying to get on that way when swinging wasn’t doing the trick. Fredonia was not caught off-guard by that strategy and made each bunt look like a routine play.

“The bunt in the East Aurora game really left a sour taste in my mouth,” Lucas said about opponents bunting. “It sucks when you get that one hit and it’s a bunt. I was ready for this game and me and Jae were going to be aggressive. We talked about it before the game, they’re going to bunt and we need to be aggressive and I felt like we did a really good job communicating today.”

While Fredonia’s first run was scored by an error, the Hillbillies did tack on another, which was earned. In the bottom of the third, Davis followed up Lucas’ single hitting into a fielder’s choice and then it was time for an unlikely hero to step into the spotlight.

Fredonia eighth-grader Jenna Fryberger had a strong semifinal game against East Aurora and then she built off of that in the championship game. Fryberger followed up Davis by hammering a triple that scored her teammate standing up and bought Fredonia some insurance.

“It was a meatball down the middle,” Fryberger said, chuckling about her triple. “I just needed to think mechanics and square the ball up.”

The Hillbillies looked to add on more runs in each inning knowing no lead is safe in the playoffs and the bottom sixth was the next time Fredonia put runners in scoring position when it loaded the bases. Depew managed to get out of the jam unscathed by keeping the ball in the infield with forceouts at home and then third with consecutive fielder’s choices.

“I really liked our approach offensively,” Beers said. “We had pressure on them all game long, we just couldn’t seem to squeeze a big hit when we needed one. As far as our approach went, I don’t think we struck out too many times. We put the ball in play and those balls are eventually going to find holes and score runs.”

Leaving runners stranded in close games can prove costly, but when Lucas has a lead in the circle it hurts a little less. In the top of the seventh, the Fredonia senior pitcher induced a popout and then struck out her 11th and 12th batters of the game to deliver the Hillbillies their third straight sectional title.

“I start running out of adjectives to describe our pitcher,” Beers said after the win. “She’s just continually dominant to the point where they were just trying to bunt from the third inning on. They might have well just waved the white flag that they weren’t going to be able to catch up to her. We kind of expected it, we were pulling our second baseman in and pulling our third baseman in and our defense played real well behind it; they got a few bunts down and we made every play.”

For the third straight game, Fredonia has faced tough pitching, this time being tasked with Depew junior Bella Hill, who limited the Hillbillies to just three hits, seven walks and a hit batter while striking out five. Lucas finished the game 2 for 4.

The past two seasons, Fredonia has crossed over to face the B1 champion, but this Wednesday they are the B1 representative and will play Class B2 champion Wilson (13-9) in Gowanda at 5:30 p.m.

“Tim (Wright) and I were talking on the way up and I don’t know if that’s happened before for us,” Beers said about winning three in a row. “But this year especially, with Jordan being a senior, we have our eyes on bigger things. This is nice, we’re going to enjoy it for today and tomorrow, but we’re going to come back Saturday. Wednesday we’re going to play one of two very good teams and then hopefully get to the regionals and we’ll see what comes out of five and once you get that far it’s anybody’s game. But we’ll take our chances with No. 21 in the circle.”


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