Falconer rallies past Gowanda

Panthers’ Kota homers, triples in defeat

Gowanda’s Addison Kota slides safely into home in the top of the sixth inning during Friday’s nonleague game against Falconer at Ernie Strickland Field in Falconer. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

FALCONER — It says a lot about a player who can get a hit when there are runners in scoring position. It says even more when there are two outs, your team is trailing and you can come up with the big hit.

Falconer sophomore Hannah Melquist found herself in the second situation with her Golden Falcons trailing the visiting Gowanda Panthers 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning of Friday’s nonleague softball game.

Melquist composed herself at the plate and ripped a bases-clearing double that put Falconer on top for good, eventually securing the 6-4 victory at Ernie Strickland Field.

“I really wanna give a shoutout to Hannah Melquist,” Falconer head coach Kayleigh Sieber said. “The composure that she has is well beyond her years, she is very poised at the plate and she’s never trying to overextend herself. She knows who she is, she knows what she’s looking for and she’s really, really locked in when she’s in there. We really lean on her in those clutch moments to show up and pull us through when the game gets tight.”

The game got away from Gowanda when it made its only error that extended the fifth inning, but the defense responded and ended the Falconer rally with an incredible relay to the plate. Emily Zaranek’s double looked like it would score both Melquist and Mylie Zaranek, but the throw from Hailey Christopher in left field to shortstop Holland Browning was perfectly fired to catcher Ella Luther, who applied the tag.

Falconer’s Mylie Zaranek is out at home plate after being tagged by Gowanda’s Ella Luther during the bottom of the fifth inning of Friday’s nonleague game at Ernie Strickland Field in Falconer. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

Aside from its one error, Gowanda was exceptional in the field and that included Luther catching two runners stealing.

“That’s huge for you,” Gowanda head coach Mike Maloney said about his defense. “Instead of having first and second for you with no outs, she (Luther) throws out the runner at second twice and gets an out instead of someone on base, it’s huge. That determines the whole inning right there, the girl was walked and tries to steal and was thrown out, it takes away the walk. Then the great play — it kept us in the game — Christopher threw it to Holland for the cutoff and went to home and Ella made a great play at home.”

After the inning that got away from them, the Panthers responded in the top of the sixth inning and it was pitcher Addison Kota looking to get runs back for herself.

Hitting an RBI triple in her first at-bat and then labeling a solo home run over the left field fence in her second appearance, Kota was looking to do damage again at the plate. However, Kota took a pitch to the helmet and was awarded her base. That didn’t stop her from getting around for the third time as a single from Christopher and then a RBI single from Lauren Kelly put Gowanda back in business trailing 6-4 with runners in scoring position.

The lead Falconer had taken was now in jeopardy with Christopher and Kelly on with two outs, trailing by two. After inducing a pair of popouts for the first two outs, Emily Rhinehart delivered from the circle and got a ball right back to her that she was able to throw to first to end the inning and get out of the jam.

Falconer’s Angelina Fiasco is tagged out attempting to steal second by Gowanda’s Holland Browning. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

“We had the clamps on, we knew we needed to come up and make the outs that we need to make,” Sieber said about getting out of the jam. “I always tell them the routine ones are what we have to make, we’ve got to seal the routine ball. I don’t expect anyone to make a SportsCenter Top 10 play every single time, I want to make the routine outs and stay consistent. That’s what we were able to do, just continue and move on to the next batter; induce a simple groundball and get the out.”

Falconer getting out the jam in the top of the sixth put the final touches on a game in which it had to battle back against a proven opponent, something it will need to do when the postseason comes around.

“We are battle-tested,” Sieber said about her team. “We definitely don’t shy away from playing our best game and going against these batters. We know they’re a skilled offense, we knew what we were up against today and sometimes you need to let them get the ball in play to kind of get your bearings. I was most interested in seeing how we would respond to it. I’m a very vocal coach and I let them do the talking to see if they could sort it out to see if they could pull themselves out of it. … They absolutely responded exactly how I wanted them to, I was impressed.”

Gowanda (9-2, 4-1 CCAA D1 East) jumped on Falconer in the first inning when Browning reached via single and was knocked home on Kota’s RBI triple. Kota then scored when Luther connected for her first of two singles. Then in the third inning, Kota hit the solo shot to push the lead to 3-0.

Falconer (8-3, 4-2 CCAA D1 West) got its first run back in the fourth when Melquist reached via walk and was promptly hit home by an Emily Zaranek RBI triple. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Falconer plated Nylah Sharpe, Khloe Livengood, Fiasco, Rhinehart and Melquist.

Despite the scoreboard showing six runs, Kota was only responsible for one earned run as she threw all six innings giving up six hits and four walks with six strikeouts. In the other circle, Rhinehart pitched all seven giving up four earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out eight.

The only player Rhinehart struggled with was Kota, who was 2 for 2 with a triple, a home run and three runs after scoring with a hit by pitch.

“She’s a great player,” Maloney said about Kota. “She’s a great teammate, great player. She loves to come out here to play and compete and she loves to compete against the bigger teams. She likes to put her talents against them and I think she fares pretty well.”

Both Melquist and Fiasco had Kota’s number at the plate reaching base a combined five times, Melquist finished 2 for 2 and walked while scoring twice and Fiasco had a pair of singles, an RBI and scored once.


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