Falcons currently 7-1 in league play, dominating offensively, defensively
By David Yarger
The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons softball team has had a knack for producing a quality team out of the Niagara Frontier League. With five Section VI titles and eight Niagara Frontier League crowns under their belt dating back to 1976 and 1982, respectively, the 2018 Falcons could use their experienced roster to ring in No. 6 and No. 9.
In eight NFL games, the Falcons are 7-1 and have scored 91 runs, while only giving up 23. Coach Jim Proefrock's five seniors, eight juniors and three sophomores pack a punch offensively, are defensively smooth and strong in the pitching circle.
As far as runs go, Proefrock said the output really speaks to the skill of his roster.
"I think it's just the talent that I have and how much they work together. They've been playing together for a long time, so most of the team ... they really work together and it's just a tribute to the JV program and our other programs that tribute to this team as well. When you bring them all together you just get a very loaded team from top to bottom." Proefrock said.
Proefrock added that his defense is efficient, not only physically, but mentally.
"I think they're as strong mentally as they are physically," Proefrock said. "They're a bunch of gamers and they know they're in every single game and that's how we want them to be."
Early in the season, the team took a trip to Florida to get some game experience under their belt. Proefrock said the team scored a lot in eight games and it's helped the team continue to roll in NFL play.
The roster is led by junior captains Madison Evarts, Mackenzie Franks and Mackenzie Quider. Evarts and Franks lead the roster with five years of varsity experience apiece, while Quider has three. Twelve of the 16 Falcons have two or more years of varsity experience and Proefrock said that's what sets his team apart from others.
"We got experience on most teams," Proefrock said. "(Most teams) will say they have a good, sound softball team and we had to beat them today."
Proefrock pointed out the experience in the Falcons most recent game versus Grand Island, where his team was down 2-0 early, but came back to win, 3-2.
Looking back towards the captains, Proefrock had high praise for the trio and said they all bring incredible assets to the team.
"Mackenzie Franks has played every position since the seventh- grade. She was first base, then we moved her for eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade season to third base and now shortstop, because she's just that phenomenal of a player; you can just put her anywhere and she's going to excel at it.
"She's been in my No. 3 spot hitting for a long time. She's there for a reason. ... She's just a great hitter," he said.
Proefrock was proud of Evarts for coming back from a difficult injury and being a good contributor to the team.
"It's a relief to see her come back strong, because she tore her ACL over the summer," he said. "She's fresh off an ACL tear and she worked hard to get back here and she's shown no residual effects of slowing down at all."
Quider, the Falcons main pitcher and No. 4 hitter, recently played a key role in the Falcons win over Grand Island - getting the win in the circle and hitting the game-winning home run. Proefrock said he loves the dual threat she brings to the team.
"I love Quider at the mound and at the plate," he said. "She's always composed, she never lets anything get to her, she's mentally strong, she doesn't get rattled and when she's in that box I have the utmost confidence in her that she's going to do good things."
The five seniors for Proefrock's roster include Taylor Benton, Alaina Bailey, Carly and Mikaela Milleville and Meghan Gleason.
Every year, every team comes into the season with the same goals of winning their league and possibly winning a Section VI title. For N-W, although they've produce several great talents, their last Section VI title was in 2011 and their last NFL title was a split with Niagara Falls in 2014. For Proefrock, he said he wanted his team to just take every- thing one step at a time and not overthink anything.
"We always tell our team 'One game at a time,' and if you keep winning one game at a time, then good things are going to happen. We don't want to look too far ahead and put some undue pressure on us. We just play the game that's put in front of us and we'll go as far as our talent and our team takes us. They work hard and they have great chemistry ... it's really an honor to coach them," he said.
Halfway through the NFL season at 7-1, Proefrock said he is quite happy where his team stands near the top of the division. The one loss was a 1-0 defeat versus Lewiston-Porter, who houses one of the best pitchers in the league, Riley Crum. Proefrock praised the Lancers, but he hoped the next battle would result in a Falcons win.
"We lost a close one to Lew-Port against a good pitcher; we have a good pitcher ourselves, we'll see them one more time and hopefully the outcome will be different. I wouldn't change anything and right now there's not much I would improve on. It's a streaky sport and right now I just wanna keep us going in the right direction. As long as we can do that I think we're going to be fine," he said.
The Falcons will get their chance for revenge versus the Lancers at home at 4:45 p.m. today.
Niagara-Wheatfield pitcher Mackenzie Quider throws a pitch during the Falcons game versus Grand Island.