FREWSBURG - Sometimes, it just takes a team a little time to get going.
Like a motor that struggles to turn over after a winter of disuse, the top-seeded Frewsburg Bears found it difficult to get warmed up on a brisk and breezy Friday afternoon.
Once they did, however, there was no shutting them down.
Frewsburg’s Reyanne Strong rips a hit in the Bears’ Section 6 Class C softball quarterfinal against Allegany-Limestone. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Trailing 2-0 after three innings, Frewsburg climbed from depths of a sluggish start and rediscovered the hitting stroke that had guided it to the Division 2 title just a few short weeks ago as it plated runs in each of the final three innings on the way to a Section 6 Class C quarterfinal victory over eighth-seeded Allegany-Limestone, 6-2.
And while Frewsburg fans on hand may have been feeling a tad uncomfortable with how things were looking midway through the contest, coach Jon Blanchard and the rest of his Bears never had any doubts they'd kick into gear eventually.
"I wasn't worried a bit," Blanchard said. "We had a little trouble figuring it out in the beginning and you could see that my good hitters (started a little slow), but it was just a matter of time before we started scoring.
"And that's we did."
Taking their cue from starting pitcher Sam Mott, who after enduring an uneven start in the circle finally zeroed in on the strike zone in the top of the fourth when she struck out the side, the Bears took the game once and for all in the home half of the frame in vintage fashion - manufacturing runs by forcing the defense to make plays.
Mott kicked off the game-deciding inning by drawing a walk, and then her courtesy runner, Kaitlyn Blanchard, moved to second on Annie Berg's bunt single.
Emily Hair pushed both Kaitlyn Blanchard and Berg ahead 60 feet with a sacrifice bunt, and then Frewsburg scored its first run of the game, and cut the deficit in half, 2-1, when Alanna Blanchard connected for a single. Moments later Bethany Steele knotted things at 2-2 by laying down a suicide squeeze to score Berg.
Karlee Foti followed and knocked in what would turn out to be the game-winning run after she hit a hard grounder to third base. The Lady Gators' fielder, instead of recording the sure out a first and ending the inning, opted to fire home, but Alanna Blanchard was too quick for the throw and slid safely under the tag to put her squad ahead, 3-2.
Alanna Blanchard would finish with a team-high two runs scored after delivering two hits in three at-bats with an RBI.
"There was a little rut there in the third inning when (Allegany-Limestone) put a couple on there and we didn't respond, but we stayed strong and shut them down in the fourth," Jon Blanchard said. "We were able to come back and score after that, and like the girls said after the game, they were playing as a team. They really felt like they were playing hard and even though everything didn't come together exactly like we wanted (right away), they knew it was just a matter of time. And that was really special."
Now trailing, Allegany-Limestone could feel the pincers closing.
"We put some pressure on them," coach Paul Furlong said, "and then they put pressure on us in the fourth inning and we didn't make the plays when we needed to. And you saw it, a veteran team took the lead and finished; they knew exactly how to finish. You could see their confidence level change."
The lead in hand, Mott started really dealing, and over the final three innings she struck out six batters and retired nine of the last 11, including, at one point, eight in a row.
"She went into the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and got stronger and stronger and stronger," Blanchard said. "And we got stronger and stronger as a team (with her)."
Over seven innings, Mott fanned 12, walked four and surrendered one earned run on just two hits.
Frewsburg would add some cushion in the fifth when McKenzie Cass (2-for-4 with a run scored), after singling and eventually moving to third on consecutive passed balls, managed to tag up and score on a line drive to short.
"They're pretty smart baserunners, and I'm happy to see that," Blanchard said with a smile. "We had to scrap together every run we could in this game."
Up next is a semifinal battle on Tuesday with No. 5 Chautauqua Lake, a winner on Friday over fourth-seeded Portville, 6-1.