FALCONER - After falling to rival Falconer (2-1, 1-1) in the Section 6 Class B-2 softball title game last season, the Fredonia Lady Hillbillies (2-0) earned their vengeance Thursday.
Back-and-forth action over seven innings saw Fredonia prevail 13-11 over the defending sectional champions in CCAA?West 1 action, despite the team fielding a roster loaded with underclassmen.
The Lady Hillbillies entered the seventh inning down by a pair of runs, 11-9, but fired up their offense with four hits in their final at bat.
After carrying a decisive 13-11 margin into the bottom of the final inning, Fredonia relief pitcher Hannah Cybart fanned one batter and forced another two outs to end the game in quick fashion.
The freshman entered the game a third of the way through the fourth inning after starter Baylee Tarnowski fanned one with two walks and three earned runs.
Abby Courtney went the distance on the mound for Falconer and ended the day with two walks and two strikeouts, and also had a single at the plate.
"You know what, early in the year, this is actually the second time we've been on the field, and no I didn't expect (this type of game),'' said Fredonia coach Joe Pucciarelli. ''I mean against a good pitcher too. I was very proud of our girls,"
After a successful year in 2013, Pucciarelli's current lineup consists of a starting eighth-grader, four freshman, two sophomores and six juniors with Alicia Deering as the lone senior.
Despite the lack of experience, the Lady Hillbillies were swinging loose and never looked nervous despite trailing at two different times .
While Fredonia had no trouble getting hits against the Lady Golden Falcons, they also scored a number of runs thanks to Falconer errors and clutch base running.
Pucciarelli's team grabbed its first run in the top of the third after eighth-grader Cassie Essek hammered out a double, advanced to third on a flyout and then beat out a rundown at home plate.
Shortly after, Savannah Rivera made it 2-0 after entering the game as a pinch-runner and sprinting to home on a sacrifice fly.
Falconer wasted no time getting back into the game after falling behind in third.
In the bottom of the inning, Jenna Fellows opened with a single followed by another infield hit from Kaylei Russell. The Lady Golden Falcons then loaded the bases on an error and Katie Hines smacked a double that scored all three baserunners and gave Falconer its first lead of the day.
That would be the first of five different lead changes in a game that featured excitement from one inning to the next.
"You know, with Fredonia, they're always tough, they always have a tough softball squad, and looking back, they had a few (players) coming back from last year," said Falconer coach Dan Morales. "Especially being so early in the season, you know. It's our third time out and their second time out. It was anyone's ballgame."
The Lady Hillbillies were able to regain the lead during their next at bat when freshman Caitlyn Cybart legged out a double and was sent home on an RBI-single from fellow freshman Mekenna Leid.
Fredonia was then able to get out of the bottom of the fourth without much trouble after Cybart entered the game in relief and quickly tossed a strike to end the inning.
With the game tied, 3-3, the Fredonia bats came alive once more to start the fifth when Katie Webster cracked a two-run triple and then got sent home on a squeeze bunt by Cybart.
It looked like the Lady Hillbillies would have a chance to increase their three-run lead as a result of a fielding error, but Falconer was able to end the inning down 6-3 on an easy out.
Morales' team regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth with a three-RBI single from Samantha Levin to grab 7-6 lead.
Then, Lady Golden Falcons hurt their own cause with a pair of errors to start the sixth. Those mistakes, combined with a triple from Deering, a squeeze bunt from Hannah Cybart, a single with a stolen base from Morgan Genovese and an RBI-triple from Bre Dahn turned the tide once more.
Falconer's final offensive push in the bottom of the sixth started with a double from Fellows, her third hit, and an RBI-single by Russell. It looked like the Lady Golden Falcons would be able to put the game out of reach after picking up an 11-9 lead on a hard-hit two-run triple by Hines and Kaylee Keith's fake-bunt RBI single, but Fredonia still had one more at bat.
Decisive hits by Leid, Deering and an RBI-double from Hannah Cybart sealed the win for the Lady Hillbillies.
"We started Baylee (Tarnowski), who was the reigning pitcher of the year in the league, but she just didn't have it (Thursday)," said Pucciarelli. ''But to have a freshman (Hannah Cybart) come in and pitch, she did a great job. That was great, we have a lot of things to work on.''