Falcons answer Vikings fourth inning with bigger sixth inning
By David Yarger
Coach Jim Proefrock calls his Niagara-Wheatfield softball team a "bunch of gamers." Versus Grand Island, the gamers fought back.
After blowing a 4-0 lead, the Falcons rallied back to defeat the Vikings, 11-6, Tuesday at Veterans Park on Grand Island
The win extends the Falcons record to 9-3 in Niagara Frontier League play, while the loss drops the Vikings record to 7-7 in the NFL.
The Falcons scored in the first three innings to go up 4-0, quickly.
In the first, Mackenzie Quider grounded out to shortstop, scoring Mikaela Milleville from third, after she walked, advanced to second base on a single, then third base on a passed ball.
In the second, Carly Milleville began her impressive offensive day. After reaching first via an error, Carly stole second base, then advanced to third on a bunt single by Katie Kostiw. Carly then used her speed to hustle home on a squeeze bunt by Sydney Crangle to make it 2-0, Falcons.
In the third, Carly was at it again. After Taylor Benton singled with one out and Jordyn Smith walked with two outs, Carly hit a two-run double to extend the Falcons lead to 4-0.
Meanwhile, Falcons pitcher Maddie Kwitchoff was dominant. In five innings pitched, Kwitchoff gave up one earned run, struck out four batters and limited the Vikings to three hits.
Kwitchoff avoided any trouble in the first inning after two one out walks, inducing a groundout and strike out.
Kwitchoff only ran into trouble in the fourth inning, but, of the five runs given up in the inning, none was earned.
With two outs in the fourth and Vikings baserunners on second and third base after walks and stolen bases, Erin Cool hit a ball that was dropped in the outfield, allowing the two runners, Savannah Sipe and Shay Sommer, to score. Cool later scored after a single by Makayla Montes.
The Vikings added two more in the frame after a fielding error. In the end, the Vikings scored five runs on two Falcons errors and just two hits - only one left the infield - and GI led, 5-4.
Following a smooth fifth inning, the Falcons marched back with a vengeance. Carly led off the inning with her second double of the day. Following a walk to Kostiw, Kwitchoff laced a triple into the gap, scoring Carly and Kostiw and giving N-W the lead, once again, 6-5. Kwitchoff then beat the throw to home following a Crangle groundball to shortstop. The Falcons went on to add three more runs for a six-run inning.
In the sixth, after a hit by pitch, Mackenzie Quider moved from third base to pitch. Quider limited the damage to just one run after allowing an RBI single from Jess Faso.
In the top half of the seventh it was the same old story. Carly doubled to start, then Kostiw singled to drive her in, adding a key insurance run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Quider shut the door with a quick 1-2-3 inning, giving the Falcons the victory, 11-6.
Following the game, Proefrock was happy to see Carly swing the bat the way she did.
"She has her days," Proefrock said. "She's a great hitter and today was one of those. She definitely sparked our offense - all extra base hits - I can't say enough about her."
Carly ended the day 3-4 with three runs and two RBIs. Benton also finished 3-4 with two runs scored.
After leading 4-0, then trailing 5-4 in the blink of an eye, Proefrock said he wanted his team focus up on the defensive side of things.
"I said we needed to tighten up on defense. Five unearned runs - our pitcher was throwing great, we gotta help her out and I said 'You gotta make up with it right now for those errors.' "
Proefrock was pleased with Kwitchoff's outing, especially after overcoming a back injury.
"She's been battling a bad back all season and that's been the reason why she hasn't been pitching much, so this was her first start of the season. She did a heck of a job," Proefrock said.
Proefrock was also happy to see Kwitchoff back in the circle knowing the amount of work she's done to get back into it.
For the Vikings, it's another game they led in or were close and couldn't seal the deal. Coach Cheryl O'Connor was happy with the fight in the fourth inning to comeback, but was still frustrated by another tough result to take.
"They were determined. Unfortunately, having one strong inning at the plate isn't enough. We can't just have one strong inning, you have to consistently be clutch throughout the game.
"It's really discouraging. We are dealing with injuries and unfortunately, we have three people that are injured and coming off of injuries and not 100 percent, and that's hard. It's hard being so close, so many times and just falling short, because I don't care if you lose by one run or 15 runs, if it's a loss, it's still a loss. So that's been tough," O'Connor said.
The win for the Falcons also snaps a two-game losing streak. Proefrock said the win is a little confidence boost as the team moves forward.
"It's nice to take one here away, get back in that win column heading in, hopefully, the right direction to sectionals, which is the most important thing next week that we have coming up.
"Little bit of a lull there, but this team is resilient and they'll bounce back and they showed it today," Proefrock said.
The Falcons bounce back into action at 4:45 p.m. tomorrow at Lockport. Meanwhile, the Vikings look to bounce back at 4:45 p.m. tomorrow at Kenmore East.