Rally Time

Falconer Beats Eden To Reach Class B2 Final

Falconer’s Mylie Zaranek reacts at second base after her go-ahead RBI single during the fourth inning of Tuesday’s Section VI Class B2 semifinal against Eden at Ernie Strickland Field in Falconer. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

FALCONER — A 3-0 first-inning deficit would be devastating to some teams.

Not the Falconer softball team.

The Golden Falcons stayed upbeat until their bats came alive.

Emily Rhinehart and Hannah Melquist hit back-to-back doubles during a four-run fourth inning as No. 1 Falconer rallied past No. 4 Eden 6-4 in a Section VI Class B2 semifinal at Ernie Strickland Field on Tuesday evening.

The win sends the Golden Falcons into Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against No. 3 Wilson in Grand Island. The Lakewomen beat No. 2 Portville 7-1 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.

Golden Falcons’ Nylah Sharpe celebrates after a fifth-inning double. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

“We don’t ever lose, we learn. … I am a big motivational person. I’m big on the psychological aspect of the game. I’ve been pumping them full of Kobe (Bryant) quotes for about two weeks now, just trying to get that mindset,” Falconer head coach Kayleigh Sieber said. “We’re winners. We are here to play hard. We are going to take some lumps every now and then, but we’re going to respond.”

Eden didn’t make it easy for Falconer early.

Raiders leadoff batter Hailey Cooper walked and Lizzie Kauzala singled before a walk to cleanup hitter Grace Canfield loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning. Catherine Kauzala followed with an RBI single and, with two outs, Zoey Genco hit a two-run single to make it 3-0. The Golden Falcons did a good job on the relay to cut down Genco between first and second on the play, but the damage had been done.

“I was super-impressed with her ability to adjust to the game plan as we went. … I thought she had a really nice outing, but it resulted in a couple of walks that could’ve been more competitive,” Sieber said of Rhinehart, her starting pitcher. “As you go, you kind of adjust. … We started targeting a couple of different pitches and moving it around; just getting creative to induce groundball and flyball outs.”

Falconer got a run back in its half of the first when Melquist reached on a fielder’s choice and eventually scored on Emily Zaranek’s RBI single, but the Golden Falcons left the bases loaded.

Falconer’s Emily Rhinehart throws to first base during Tuesday’s Section VI Class B2 semifinal against Eden at Ernie Strickland Field in Falconer. P-J photo by Matt Spielman

Eden regained its three-run lead in the top of the third inning when sophomore Leanna Sargent hit a leadoff home run to center field.

Falconer’s bats woke up in its half of the fourth inning. Nylah Sharpe was hit by a pitch to open the frame and Addison Calimeri’s sacrifice bunt pushed Sharpe all the way to third base. After a popup for the second out of the inning, Angelina Fiasco laid down a two-out bunt and was safe at first on the play, plating Sharpe with the Golden Falcons’ second run.

“Angelina is one of those kids where the better caliber team we play, the better she plays,” Sieber said. “When she shows up and we’re down a little bit, that’s when you can almost read her body language that she is locked in, ready to go, and she’s going to have a great outing. You could tell right off the bat what kind of game she was going to have.”

Rhinehart then looked like she may have tied the game with an inside-the-park two-run home run down the right field line, but the ball rolled past the outfield fence and a ground-rule double was called.

“That was a moment of allowing our maturity to shine. It could’ve been easy to let the wind out of our sails and turn the momentum over … but the ball never lies,” Sieber said. ” … I’m not asking for anybody to give us runs. … I want to earn them all. When they come up there slugging that way … and stay within themselves … they were able to adjust, settle in and make it happen.”

The ruling didn’t end up mattering when Melquist laced a two-run double to the fence in right-center field to tie the game.

“Hannah is Miss Clutch. There is no moment that is too big for her,” Sieber said. ” … Her baseball/softball IQ is really high. … When you have a psychological game plan, it makes the X’s and O’s in real life easier. That’s what keeps the game simple for her.”

Mylie Zaranek followed with an RBI single as Falconer took its first lead of the game.

The one-run advantage would turn out to be enough, but the Golden Falcons added an insurance run in the sixth inning when Fiasco walked, stole second and scored on an RBI triple by Melquist.

Falconer was nearly flawless behind Rhinehart in the circle. The sophomore right-hander allowed just four hits after Eden’s three-hit first inning, but only struck out two in the game. It didn’t matter because the Golden Falcons did not commit a single error, handling 19 outs in the field with ease.

“I think, player for player, both defensively and when we are having our best outing, we are as good as anybody, if not better, than anybody out there,” Sieber said. ” … If we can get every facet of the game moving and grooving in symbiosis, then we’re going to be in good shape.”


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