No. 3 Falcons defeat No. 2 Williamsville North with clutch at bats
By David Yarger
It's been about seven years since Niagara-Wheatfield softball coach Jim Proefrock could say his team was heading to the big game. Proefrock breathed a sigh of relief Thursday night, as the Falcons defeated the Williamsville North Spartans, 8-4, in the Section VI Class AA semifinals.
The Falcons last appearance in a sectional final was in 2011, where they defeated Clarence, 5-4.
The Falcons had to fight for the victory, just like they've done the majority of the season.
N-W got off to a hot start, as Mackenzie Quider hit an RBI double to score Mikaela Milleville from first and then Taylor Benton drove in Quider with an RBI single. After the first inning, the Falcons led, 2-0.
The Spartans took control in the second inning, though. Allie Macon led off the inning with a walk, then advanced to second on a passed ball. Next, Alex Mucci hit an RBI double to cut the deficit in half, 2-1.
Following a hit by pitch and a bunt single, the bases were loaded. After a fielders choice and a throwing error, the Spartans wound up with three more runs to take a 4-2 lead.
N-W responded in the top of the fourth, as Carly Milleville singled to start the inning. Milleville stole second, then took third base after an errant throw by the catcher. A couple pitches later, Carly trotted home on a passed ball, cutting the North lead to 4-3.
After a Maddie Evarts base hit and stolen base, Mackenzie Franks came up with two outs. Franks laced a single to left to score Evarts and tie the game up, 4-4.
Once the Falcons got the game tied, the momentum shifted back toward N-W.
Quider, who came in to relieve starter Madison Kwitchoff in the second inning, found a groove and only allowed two baserunners from the third to sixth inning.
With North unable to touch Quider, the Falcons took advantage. In the fifth inning, the Falcons batted around and scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead. The inning was highlighted by a Jordyn Smith inside-the-park home run to left field, a Carly Milleville RBI double to score Sydney Crangle, who walked, and then a RBI single from Evarts to score Milleville.
The Falcons added an additional insurance run in the top of the seventh when Franks hit an RBI triple to left-center field, scoring Mikaela Milleville from first, who walked.
Quider ran into some trouble in the bottom of the seventh, as the first three Spartans hitters reached via singles. Quider played no games, though, and induce a lineout to third, a pop up to second base and then a ground ball to second to seal the deal and send the Falcons back into the sectional finals.
Proefrock was visibly relieved following the game, knowing his team would be playing in the big game once again.
"It feels great," Proefrock said. "It's been too long. I'm really excited. The girls did it. They came to play today, they're excited. Was a great crowd, great energy - they did what they needed to win - they were the better team tonight."
The game was definitely no cake walk for the Falcons, but Proefrock has noted his team's resiliency all season by managing tight games and rallying to come back when down.
"I think it dates back to the experience and the mentalities. My girls are head strong and they know that they have the ability to do that. They don't wanna be done with this season, they wanna keep winning and keep going forward and the only way to do that is to do what they did tonight," Proefrock said.
In relief, Quider received the win in the circle. Quider threw six shutout, three-hit innings and kept North batters guessing all night.
Offensively, Proefrock was pleased to see his hitters taking pitches and creating good at bats, as the Falcons drew nine walks in the win, with Mikaela Milleville drawing four of the nine. Also, for the Falcons, Evarts went 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Carly Milleville went 2-3 with two runs and an RBI. Quider and Franks also added two hits apiece and one and two RBIs, respectively.
Next up, the No. 3 seeded Falcons will face the No. 5 Lancaster Legends. Proefrock said his team will be ready for another fight.
"We're definitely gonna get prepared," Proefrock said. "(We'll) get some scouting reports on them and we're just gonna keep doing what we're gonna do one game at a time. ... We'll be prepared for next time."
The Falcons will look to hoist their sixth sectional championship in school history in their title bout with the Legends at Williamsville East at 5 p.m., Tuesday.