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High School Softball: Frontier making the proper adjustments

Caisey Lipka makes a catch in the outfield for a Frontier team that seems to be hitting its stride. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
At the beginning of a season, more often than not there seems to be a period of adjustment that a team goes through. It could be getting used to the varsity level, playing different positions or meshing with the team’s newcomers.

Frontier took a little of time out of the gate to get everyone on the same page and see where each part fits but now a more cohesive bunch, the team is starting to see a difference in its play of late.

Coming off an appearance in the finals of the Depew Tournament over the weekend, the Falcons beat Orchard Park 2-1 in a nine-inning contest. About two weeks prior, Frontier had lost to Orchard Park as part of a 0-3 start to a tough ECIC Division I slate.

The Falcons also have a win against Lancaster, 3-2 in eight innings, on April 22 to hang their hats on. Lancaster has already knocked off defending Class AA state champion Clarence and Class A state semifinalist Hamburg.

“I like the way they’ve come together,” Frontier head coach Deb Schruefer said. “It was about getting players comfortable in positions and some were playing positions that normally weren’t their first choice or we were splitting time with players. Because they’re very close in what they do, that was our M.O. in the very beginning.”

Schruefer added that at times batters have been a little timid, including early in the game against Orchard Park, but they certainly got going. All four batters to hit in the bottom of the ninth on Monday singled with junior Kaitlyn Lipka blooping a hit into right field to score sophomore utility player Lexi Simmons for the walk-off game-winner with one out.

Junior Melissa Woods, who had just made a leaping catch to end an Orchard Park rally in the top of the ninth, began the inning with a single and moved to second on Simmons’ hit but was thrown out at the plate on junior Lauren Pixley’s single to center.

After being busy pitching over the weekend, Heather Nye was back on the mound and earned the win. Olivia Nappo, who also pitched over the weekend and has contributed at third and in right, scored Frontier’s other run in the win. Schruefer also credited senior catcher and captain Sarah Cuillo with doing a good job handling the pitching staff and stepping up at the plate.

“They really started swinging (in the ninth),” said Schruefer, who made a defensive change to help spark a struggling team earlier in the game. “They rallied together and didn’t let it get them down.”

Simmons has been difficult to take out of the lineup with her play. She played third base on Monday but also made a huge play in right field the first time Frontier played Orchard Park. She’s also played some shortstop.

“Now, it’s whoever’s bats are hot is going to be in the lineup,” said Schruefer, whose team also made it the final of the Gerry Gentner Memorial Tournament. “We’ve got to find a sport for them somewhere.”

The Falcons had the bats going over the weekend, outscoring Nardin 10-0 and West Seneca West 9-3 to advance to the tournament championship where they lost 4-3 in eight innings to Hamburg. Pixley and Nye were selected to the all-tournament team.

In beating Frontier, Hamburg senior Heather Tighe went 2-4 and knocked in the game-winning run. Pinch-runner Ashley Jablonski scored from second when Tighe cranked one up the middle. Bridget Hogan finished with 12 strikeouts and was named tournament MVP. Maddie Tucker was named to the all-tournament team.

Earlier in the tournament, in beating Cheektowaga 5-0, Hogan threw a two-hitter with 17 strikeouts and Kailee Ramaekers went 2 for 2 with two RBI and two runs. In defeating Depew 16-2, Tucker went 3 for 4, with three RBI and scored four runs and Ramaekers went 2 for 2 with four RBI.

After the title, Hamburg avenged a division loss to Lancaster by beating the Redskins 2-1 in nine innings. Senior catcher, Sarah Mertowski drove in the first run in the top of the second and drew a walk in the top of the ninth. Allison Salerno then drove in pinch-runner Melissa McCaffrey for the game-winning RBI. Salerno also had a highlight reel catch in the bottom of the ninth for the second out with a runner at first base. Hogan went the distance with eight strikeouts.

After losing its Monsignor Martin opener, Immaculata has run away with its last three league games, including topping Nardin 16-2 on April 29. Immaculata, which is now 7-3 overall and ranked 15th in the state Class C poll, broke it open early with eight runs in the first three innings. Kathryn Halloran led the offense with two extra base hits, including a two-run double, and Emily Michalski added two RBI.

The Bears split a pair of games at the Depew Tournament on Saturday, beating Sweet Home 6-5 after falling to Niagara-Wheatfield 6-2. After six lead changes against Sweet Home, Cortney Carroccia gave Immaculata the lead for good with a steal of home. She also threw the first five innings and earned the win, striking out five while allowing three hits. Molly Hennessy pitched two scoreless innings to close the game. Halloran hit a two-run homer and Bridget Giles recorded two hits. Against Wheatfield, a two-RBI double from Halloran would be the Bears’ only hit.
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