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Led by performance of Ross, NT softball gets that first win

It was Hollywood drama that couldn’t have been anymore perfect if Kelsey Ross had penned the ending herself.

On May 1, Ross, a North Tonawanda senior, threw a complete-game as the Ladyjacks defeated Lewiston Porter 7-2 on Senior Night at T.K. Murphy Field.

The win also represented the end of NT’s two-year losing streak as the program looks to return to its glory days.

“It really was like a perfect night for us,” said Ross. “(Fellow senior) Amber (Schmigel) has been on the team two years I’ve been on for three, and we’ve had a couple of rough seasons. So having a win, after we haven’t had one last year or this year, was really great.

“And it was nice because there was already cake and balloons (to celebrate senior night) afterwards,” she added.

In her third season of varsity, Ross, and co-captain Amber Schmigel, came in with the mission to be good leaders, set the right tone everyday for their young teammates and build off of last years’ positives to create a winning atmosphere in 2013.

But the first few weeks of the season were anything but ideal for Ross as she fought off a bout with pneumonia that sapped her strength.

Ross struggled to find her consistency in the circle. Some days, she was hitting her spots, pitches were working and she was giving her team a quality start.

Other days, Ross battled with her command and would find herself lasting just a couple innings before exiting the game.

On this night it all came together for everyone. As the game went on Ross said every girls’ confidence grew more and more as they slowly but surely believed they could secure the win.

“I think, for me, I pitched probably the best game I have all season,” Ross said. “I know that’s kind of what is was for me — we’ve made it this far, there’s no way I’m going to let these girls get around.

“It was definitely a team effort where the energy was up and everyone was happy that we were winning and we’re not going to let this go,” she added about the team’s mind-set. “We proved that hard work definitely pays off.”

Jacks first-year coach Samantha Rajski said she was extremely proud of the way Ross brought her A-game against Lew-Port.

“I actually went up to Kelsey and said ‘who are you and what did you do with Kelsey?’” Rajski said with a smile. “She did what she needed to do. She took control of the game and honestly I’ve never seen her pitch that well.

“I would honestly say that’s probably the best game she’s ever pitched in her life,” she added. “I’ve only known her for a year, but she just had everything working and if it wasn’t working she came back and figured it out.”

Rajski said that Ross showed great maturity by being able to bear down and not allowing issuing a couple walks throw her off her gameplan.

Ross made adjustments when needed throughout a solid seven innings.

Ross added that the drills she participated in the day before helped set the tone for her performance.

But what truly helped her the most was knowing that her teammates had her back with solid defensive plays in the field all game long.

Ross and catcher Lyssa Carlson worked in perfect rhythm, while Heather Fontana sparked the Ladyjacks offense with three RBI.

“It was everybody,” Ross said. “I think after not having won for a while, it was just a great feeling.”

Rajski said that it was a perfectly played game as every girl pulled her weight.

“They did everything the right way,” Rajski said.” “hey hit the ball, they played defense and they helped out Kelsey.”

Ross added that the win was a huge confidence booster that has the program pointed in the right direction.

“It feels like now we can actually win,” said Ross “It’s not like (before), people would look at us and say, “Oh, NT, they’re not going to win this game.’ Now we have a chance. We can be like, ‘well you know what we did win one so get ready for more.’”
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