SINCLAIRVILLE - Ken Balling stood near home plate late Wednesday afternoon and raised his arms high above his head.
As he did so, members of the Cassadaga Valley softball team - fresh off a 3-2 come-from-behind Section 6 Class C semifinal victory over Cattaraugus-Little Valley - ran by and slapped a high-five with their coach in celebration.
Most of the girls had to jump just to reach the towering Balling's hands.
Kelcie Brown of Cassadaga Valley successfully steals second base during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class C semifinal game against Cattaraugus-Little Valley. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
The extra effort clearly didn't matter to the teenagers. Being figuratively ''small'' was the biggest reason the second-seeded Lady Cougars (13-7) have a date with No. 1 Frewsburg (16-6) in the sectional title game on Saturday afternoon.
Kelcie Brown raced home with the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the fifth inning following a Cattaraugus-Little Valley error and Cassadaga Valley, thanks to successful use of the stolen base and a couple of timely hits, rallied to knock off the third-seeded Lady Timberwolves and their ace, Sara Crandall.
''I've got a team that can play small ball,'' Balling said. ''Against a pitcher like that ... for the most part you're not going to hit her that hard, so you have to be able to put the ball in play other ways.''
The Lady Cougars executed just as their coach had hoped.
Trailing 2-0, Cassadaga Valley scored twice in the fourth. Kristi Zink led off with an infield single, stole second base, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Kaitlin Johnson's ''pop-up'' RBI double that just found the outfield grass in left field. Johnson promptly stole third base and tallied the tying run following Maya Sischo's bloop single.
An inning later, it was more of the same for the Lady Cougars.
Brown led off with a single to left, stole second and third and when the throw got by the third baseman, Brown raced home with the eventual winning run.
Eighth-grader Alyssa Hahn didn't allow a hit after the third inning, finishing with a four-hitter and five strikeouts. She retired 12 of the final 13 batters she faced. The lone base runner during that span was the result of an infield error in the sixth.
''She's a competitor and she loves it,'' Balling said. ''I'm looking forward to spending some years with her.''
Crandall, who scattered six hits and fanned eight from the circle, scored both of the Lady Timberwolves' runs. After a two-out single in the first inning, she eventually came around to score on an error. Then, after drilling a one-out triple in third frame, she was plated by an RBI single from Kaylee Eaton.
But Hahn retired Crandall in her only other at-bat in the fifth inning and the Cattaraugus-Little Valley star was on-deck when the final out was recorded in the top of the seventh.
''I told the girls in the (sixth inning), 'Here's where we're at (in the lineup). We need to go 1-2-3 here and then we stay away from Crandall.' Then we commit an error and now we're one batter closer to her,'' Balling said. ''Then I really reiterated it before we went out in the top of the seventh to make sure we go 1-2-3.''
Hahn did just that, getting two groundballs, sandwiched around a popup, to end the game.
The victory was the Lady Cougars' first this year against Cattaraugus-Little Valley (11-8). In two earlier Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 2 meetings, the Lady Timberwolves prevailed, 3-2 and 5-0.
Next on Cassadaga Valley's schedule is a meeting with Frewsburg, another Division 2 foe, at 3 p.m., Saturday at the Martin Road Complex in Jamestown.
''(Crandall) is a great pitcher, who has had a great career,'' Balling said. ''Now we have another great pitcher on Saturday with Sam Mott.''