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Defense Shines As Westfield Pulls Out 1-0 Win Over Silver Creek

Westfield's Tanleigh Bestine tags out Silver Creek's Maddie Blair attempting to steal third base during Saturday's Section VI Class C quarterfinal in Silver Creek. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

SILVER CREEK — Tanleigh Bestine reprised her seventh-grade role as a pitcher during the last couple of weeks of Westfield’s season as Eva Gnadzinski got some needed rest.

On Saturday, they were back in their right spots.

At just the right time.

Bestine made a pair of potentially game-saving plays at shortstop and Gnadzinski threw a five-hit shutout as No. 5 Westfield beat No. 4 Silver Creek 1-0 in a Section VI Class C quarterfinal.

“I love the competition. I feel like we are the underdogs this year. I kind of like that role,” Westfield head coach Shawn Gnadzinski said postgame. “A lot of people aren’t expecting much out of our group, but we definitely believe in them and they believe in each other.”

His daughter Eva, a junior right-hander, allowed just four singles and a triple, while striking out three and walking none as the Wolverines advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals.

“What she had today was a lot of bite on her ball. She was forcing ground balls with her spin and sharp movement,” Coach Gnadzinski said. “Our girls played lights-out defense for her. I’m proud of the girls.”

Westfield, which won the sectional Class D title the past two seasons, will play at No. 1 Barker on Wednesday after the Bulldogs beat No. 9 Maple Grove 14-9 in a Sunday quarterfinal.

Westfield might not have been in the semifinals if not for Bestine’s play in the middle infield Saturday. The senior handled a pair of ground balls flawlessly in the first two innings and then made all three outs of the third inning before catching another popup to end the fifth inning.

“Tan’s tough out there,” Coach Gnadzinski said. “There are a lot of people who are going to be happy when she graduates, that’s for sure.”

But Bestine did her best work in the sixth when Black Knights No. 9 hitter Maddie Blair led off with a hard-hit double to left field. After leadoff hitter Rylee Weiskerger flew out to center field, Silver Creek attempted a fake bunt and steal with Laneya Olsen at the plate. Catcher Sydney Hotchkiss threw a strike to third as Bestine was running to cover the base with third baseman Keara Kincaid preparing for the bunt. As Bestine slid to catch the throw, she reached back to tag Blair before she got to the bag for the second out of the inning.

“To have our third baseman pulled in and for Syd to trust that (Bestine) would be there … what a big play,” Coach Gnadzinski said. “I’m proud of Syd for trusting it. We tell her to throw it, she’ll be there. She was there. We haven’t had that play happen for a long time. … I’m proud of both of the ladies. What a heck of a play.”

Olsen then tripled, but Kyla Ziegler hit a low, two-out line drive that was heading toward center field before Bestine made a diving catch to end the inning.

“We put the bunt sign on and the steal, and we got caught on it. That’s a play I’m going to think about for a long time,” Silver Creek head coach Justin Cerne said. “After that, the same girl rockets a triple and that’s the tying run. That one I’d like to have back.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Black Knights cleanup hitter Makayla Kelly led off with a single to right field and went to second on a wild pitch, but Gnadzinski induced a flyout for the first out and picked up her third strikeout of the game for the second out before a groundout to Kincaid ended the game.

“Makayla Kelly and Priya Sakpal have been good for us at the plate all year. … Before the inning, I told them there’s very few other girls I’d like to have in that situation,” Cerne said. “Makayla does her job and gets on, unfortunately we couldn’t get her in.”

Westfield scored the only run of the game in the top of the fourth inning. Hotchkiss singled with one out and then stole second on a strikeout as nobody covered the base for Silver Creek.

“They had a really solid infield, they played really good defense. We were on in the field minus a couple of mistakes,” Cerne said. “Those little, tiny mistakes were all the difference.”

Drew Ernewein then came through with the only run batted in of the game when she singled to center field.

“We said our depth was our strength. I believe in every single one of those girls Nos. 1-9 to hit the ball,” Coach Gnadzinski said. “Having Drew, a .400 hitter, in our No. 6 slot, that’s pretty good.”

That set up the late-game defensive magic from Bestine to preserve the win.

“I knew that pitcher was as advertised. She is tough. I don’t know if it’s a rise ball, or if it’s because she comes down and comes up a little bit,” Coach Gnadzinski said of Weiskerger, who threw a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts for the Black Knights. “I knew we were going to have to be the toughest defensive team out there today.”

Despite sharing the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 East title for its first league crown since 1995, Silver Creek’s season ends with a 13-4 overall record.

“The league title was the first of many goals we had set for ourselves. Our seniors are great kids, but we have a really young team. … I think if you would ask them, we’d start practicing for next season tomorrow,” Cerne said. “The drive is there, they want to be great. I give them a lot of credit, this is just unfortunate.”

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