By ROB TUCKER
Special to the OBSERVER
JAMESTOWN - There was one phrase rushing through Emily Hair's mind, over and over, as she stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tied Section 6 Class C title game on Saturday at the Martin Road Complex.
OBSERVER?Photo by Lisa Monacelli
Cassadaga Valley’s Kristi Zink readies her throw during Saturday’s Section 6 Class C softball title game at the Martin?Road Athletic Complex, in Jamestown.
"I thought, 'I got us into this, so I should probably get us out of it,'" she said.
And while Hair could hardly be solely to blame for the predicament in which her squad found itself - wins and losses are the result of a culmination of plays - that wasn't how she saw it. No, all the third baseman remembered was her two-out misfire to first base in the fifth inning that allowed Cassadaga Valley's Kelcie Brown to cross home from second and make the score an even 2-2.
The thought proved a powerful motivator.
With Annie Berg, who continued her string of hot hitting on Saturday with a triple to deep left to open the inning, standing a mere 60 feet from victory, Hair drove a looping liner over the moved-in Cassadaga Valley outfield for the game-winning walk-off single to give the Bears a 3-2 victory.
Oh, it also clinched for the squad a third straight sectional crown and a chance at yet another Far West Regional title on Tuesday at Olean Middle School at 3 p.m., against Section 5 winner Keshequa.
"When (Emily) came to bat with Annie at third I had all the confidence in the world that she was going to put the ball out of the infield somewhere," Frewsburg coach Jon Blanchard said. "That's exactly what she did and it was a great hit."
Upon crossing home Berg, who called the triple (her second of the game) "the biggest hit (of her high school career), definitely," was mobbed by joyous teammates. A few seconds later, Hair got the same treatment.
"It doesn't matter what level you're at," Blanchard said. "(Errors) happen, that's what the game's all about. And for (Emily) to come back...with that hit, that's just a testament to her strength. I was really, really proud of her."
Actually, overcoming adversity was a team-wide trait on Saturday, for there were a number of moments when it would have been easy for the Bears to just pack it in and let the upstart Lady Cougars (13-8), led by eighth-grade standout Alyssa Hahn, take the title.
Yes, they could have quit in the first, when Brown (1-for-3, two runs scored) and Kristi Zink (2-for-4, RBI) delivered hits to give Cassadaga Valley the early 1-0 lead; they could have bowed out following the miscue in the fifth that knotted the game, 2-2; or they even could have hung it up in the bottom of the seventh, when an umpire called out Shawna Raymond, who was standing at third with two outs and looking to end the game in walk-off fashion, for a circle violation.
Instead, they kept battling.
"I think they showed a lot of character," Blanchard said. "We could have gotten down on a couple of calls, could have hung our heads, but we just never lost focus."
Frewsburg first showed it was in for a battle when it answered the Lady Cougars' game-opening run with two of its own in the bottom half of the same frame. Reyanne Strong doubled, Raymond drove in Strong immediately after with a single and then Berg hit a two-out triple to give the Bears a 2-1 lead.
From there, however, the contest became a duel between a pair of solid right handers - one in the final year of her high school career (Frewsburg's Sam Mott) and one at just the beginning (Hahn).
It was Mott who, in the end, was able to earn the victory. She finished with 12 strikeouts - at one point she fanned seven of eight batters she faced and four in a row - four walks, five hits and two runs.
Her most important frame was the eighth, when she quelled Cassadaga Valley's regained momentum following the umpire's circle violation call in the half- inning before.
On the violation call, Mott had drawn a walk and instead of stopping at first immediately went to second in the hopes of drawing a throw that would allow Raymond to hustle home for the win. Hahn held the ball in the circle, however, and because Raymond was off the bag and didn't immediately run for home (as per the rule), she was called out; giving new life and new energy to Cassadaga Valley.
"The rule interpretation is that once my first runner rounds first, both runners then have to make a decision on whether they're going or staying," Blanchard said. "The umpire made a judgment that (Hahn) didn't make any sort of play towards (either runner), so (Raymond) needed to, in his interpretation, make a decision immediately then (on whether to go for home).
"For the bottom of the seventh, when the girl is a foot off the base, that was a rough call. But that's the whole thing, after that call the momentum could have so easily shifted, but the girls came back."
Hahn, meanwhile, kept her team in the game by spinning an eight-hitter with two strikeouts and three walks.
Cassadaga Valley coach Ken Balling was understandably sad to see his squad's solid season come to an end.
"They played their hearts out," he said. "Frewsburg is a very good team. We went through a period where we just couldn't get anything going, lost four games in a row, but we turned it around and made it here. They've got a lot to be proud of."