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Fredonia falls to Wellsville in Far West Regional 5-0

Fredonia pitcher Jordan Lucas lunges forward to make a catch to end the fourth inning of Saturday's Class B Far West Regional against Section V's Wellsville at Webster Schroeder High School. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

WEBSTER — Qualifying for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association softball tournament requires strong pitching and in Saturday’s Class B Far West Regional there was no shortage of elite arms as two Division I pitchers took to the circle.

Fredonia’s Jordan Lucas and Wellsville’s Makenzie Cowburn both reached double-digit strikeouts, but it was the latter who gave up just one hit and received five runs of support as the Lions won 5-0 to get back to the state semifinals as the Section V representative.

“They’ve prepared for this, they’re ready for this,” Wellsville co-head coach Jaime McLaughlin said about getting back to states. “We have four seniors that have been here before, they’re our leaders. They know what to tell everyone to get them where they need to be and it makes our job easy.”

Lucas was well prepared for the top of the lineup giving up just one hit to No. 3-hitter Makenna Dunbar, but it was middle of the order making a difference on the scoreboard. Hitting sixth in the Wellsville order, Natalie Adams made the difference at the plate going 2 for 2 with a pair of doubles and 3 RBIs.

“Ironically, through the scouting report, the first girl that came up with the big hit was the one girl that all the reports I had she hadn’t done much,” Fredonia head coach Jesse Beers said about the middle of Wellsville’s lineup. “She hadn’t done much, hadn’t done much and the girls that really kind of carried them this year we took care of today. But again, that’s the mark of a good team. When they go sticks up and down the lineup anybody can step up at any given moment, so again you just kind of tip your cap to them.”

Fredonia shortstop Naomi Muck turns to throw a force out at third base. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

“Natalie is quiet about it,” Wellsville co-head coach Shelley Chaffee said about Adams. “She’s had some key hits throughout the year, but this morning was amazing for her. She had 3 out of the 5 RBIs, it was just amazing for her and Dunkirk radio station gave her the award for the game and that’s well deserved.”

The Lions (21-1) got all the runs they needed in the bottom of the first and it came with some very clutch two-out hitting from Lindsay Stuck and Adams. Strikeout, walk, strikeout set the table for Stuck to rope the first hit to the gap for a double and scored Brazen Beckwith. A walk to Cowburn put two on and then Adams labeled her first double to the gap that scored Beckwith and Cowburn for the 3-0 lead.

“We’ve told anybody we talked to, from bottom to top our lineup is good,” Chaffee stated. “We can hit the ball, we can place the ball, we do small ball if we have to — which we did against Bath a little bit — but from top to bottom they’re good.”

Wellsville tacked on its final two runs in the bottom of the third and they once again came across with two outs. The Lions put the first two runners on, but a fielder’s choice and a strikeout made it two outs, however the strikeout was dropped and an attempted double play led to an error scoring Beckwith and putting Makenna Dunbar on third. Then capitalizing on the miscue Adams stroked an RBI double to make it 5-0.

“Every single one of their runs they scored with two outs,” Beers added. “That’s the mark of a great team where they could come up with the clutch hit when they needed it and we just couldn’t quite seem to do that today, so your hat’s off to them.”

Fredonia centerfielder Rihanna Benner secures a catch to end the fifth inning. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

Danielle Palasin walked in the first inning for Fredonia, but little did the ‘Billies know they would have to wait until the sixth inning to get back on the base paths and that was largely due to Cowburn’s dominance.

“My pitch calls are really all from my coach,” Cowburn said about her performance. “Coach (Rod) Perry, he really does a great job calling pitches and I wouldn’t be where I am right now if he wasn’t calling the pitches that he called for me.”

The 2023 First-Team All-State pitcher and Bellarmine University commit, Cowburn, surrendered just the one hit, walked one batter, hit a batter and struck out 12 in the win.

Cowburn’s biggest strikeout was her final one of the game, punching out Lucas when the ‘Billies had their only runner of the game in scoring position in the top of the sixth. Rihanna Benner was hit by a pitch and then Bella Buckley hit into a fielder’s choice before Naomi Muck broke up the no-hit bid.

“The irony of the situation is they kind of did to us today what we’ve been doing to teams all year long,” Beers stated. “Dominant pitching, clutch hitting at times so it’s just the irony of that situation. It was nice to scratch a hit out there, it would have been nice to push a few across. I thought in the sixth inning we had our best shot with girls on first and second with only one out. … but again the Cowburn girl, she dominated us today.”

Fredonia senior pitcher Jordan Lucas delivers to the plate. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

Muck smacked a single into left field that put Buckley on second with Palasin and Lucas looming. Cowburn then showed why the Lions have been the top ranked team in the state all season long with back-to-back strikeouts.

While Cowburn’s last strikeout was her biggest of the game, the final out from great career of Jordan Lucas was a strikeout, and fittingly so.

“I think that’s appropriate because of the career she’s had,” Beers said about Lucas recording a strikeout for her final out. “We’ve been talking about year end awards and things at our school and in one application I filled out I said she’s the best softball player to ever come out of Fredonia. Clearly the best pitcher to ever come out of Fredonia, but honestly I think the best overall player that’s ever dawned the Orange and Black for us. I just got done hugging her and I told her thank you and she’s got a lot of good softball ahead of her at St. Bonaventure.”

The Fredonia senior and St. Bonaventure University commit, Lucas, finishes her career pitching her squad to three-straight sectional titles and in her final game she left it all on the line. Lucas gave up just three earned runs — all in the first — four walks, six hits and struck out 11 batters.

“It’ll be a big hole for us to fill,” Beers said about the future. “We’re losing four seniors that all contributed this year, but we’ve got some good kids coming up through the program. One of the things Coach Bertrando says is ‘You don’t graduate tradition’ and I think we’ve put together a really nice tradition of quality softball at Fredonia and I expect that to continue.”

Fredonia head coach Jesse Beers holds the Class B Far West Regional Finalist plaque after the 'Billies fell to Wellsville 5-0. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

The loss at Far West Regionals marks the end of an era with Lucas in the circle, but this season the future of Fredonia softball got a taste of the big games they want to continue playing in and keep on the tradition of winning.

As Fredonia transitions into the future, the future is now for the Lions who have unfinished business at states.

“We really have to have the confidence that we didn’t have going into last year,” Cowburn said about going to states. “Last year we were just so pumped up that we made it to states, but now that it’s the second time we can have that little extra ‘oh yeah, we made it here now let’s take it a step further.'”

Last season Wellsville came up short in the state semifinals to Section IX’s Marlboro Central 3-2 and Section II’s Ichabod Crane won its second-straight state title. This year both Ichabod Crane and Marlboro Central moved up to Class A, and the Lions come into the semifinals as the top dog.

“It kind of pumps everybody up,” Cowburn said about the Lions being ranked No. 1 all year. “We’re like ‘oh yeah, we’ve got a target on our back, but so what?’ We’re gonna get through it and work through it as a team anyways.”

Wellsville senior pitcher Makenzie Cowburn tossed a one-hitter to send the Lions into the state semifinals. Cowburn is committed to Division I Bellarmine University. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

According to the New York State Sportswriters Association, Fredonia was Wellsville’s biggest challenger from May 7 and on, but it’s never a guarantee.

“To be honest, I don’t put a lot of stock in those rankings,” Beers said about the rankings. “I’m not really sure how they come up with them, who’s playing who, strength of schedule and all this kind of stuff. We knew going in they were quality, we’ve seen them, we had a scouting report on them so it’s not like they did anything today we weren’t prepared for. We told everybody before the game that it was going to come down to who executes and they executed a little better offensively today and that was the difference in the game.”

Wellsville’s semifinal opponent is Section III’s Marcellus and the two will meet on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Martha Avenue Recreational Park on Long Island.

Fredonia ends its season with a 21-1 record and the Section VI Class B1 crown and then overall B championship to play in the state tourament.

“This is certainly not the way you want things to end,” Beers said about coming up short of the goal to reach states. “But 10 years from now, 20 years from now when we look back at this season they’re going to take away a lot of really great memories. The run that we were on, the incredible things that happened the course of the season from walk-off home runs to no hitters to grand slams to squeeze bunts. It was just a magical run, we ran into a hell of a team today, there’s no question about it. The Cowburn girl is probably, by far, the best pitcher we’ve seen all year and we battled all day. … But I wouldn’t want to be in any other dugout.”

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