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High School Softball: Clarence shuts out Hamburg in early-season WNY showdown

Allie Salerno gets a tag down on a Clarence base-runner at third but just a little late in Hamburg’s 3-0 loss to Clarence on April 23. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
A pair of rain-outs delayed Katrina Buczkowski two weeks from hitting the hill at Hamburg for the Western New York showdown her Clarence team had eyed since the release of the ECIC I softball schedule in the preseason.

The Red Devils’ junior knew Hamburg could hit the ball as evidenced in the Bulldogs’ state semifinal run last season and from what she’s seen while playing with a handful of them during the travel season.

But the extra time in anticipation seemed to have no ill effects on the Clarence hurler. If anything, the time in between only built the confidence of Buczkowski, the first-year starting hurler who’s been mowing down most opponents to start the season.

She tossed a one-hit shutout, coming only one base hit in the seventh inning away from a perfect game, in Clarence’s 3-0 win at Hamburg on Tuesday (April 23). The Red Devils, defending state champions themselves, improved to 4-0 in ECIC Division I.

“I was pretty nervous coming into this game because I knew this was a big game and I knew how good some of the girls on Hamburg are through playing with them in travel,” said Buczkowski, coming off a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts the day prior in a win over Orchard Park. “I just tried to keep moving the ball and keep them on their toes and it worked out.”

“We were really looking forward to this and it kept getting rained out,” she added. “But today was the day and we really showed up.”

Clarence also delivered at the plate with a pair of two-out clutch hits to drive in one run in the third and two in the fifth off Hamburg standout hurler Bridget Hogan. The Red Devils finished with seven hits in the game as head coach Todd Banaszak stressed to his team to aggressively looking for pitches to hit at the plate.

“This is why we play sports, to play big games like this — we made sure they were ready and they did a good job,” Banaszak said. “We knew (Hogan) wasn’t going to walk us so we had to go up there and hit. You’re not going to win by looking at pitches and the kids hit the ball. They had some clutch base hits.”

The biggest of those came from Kayla Palmeri, who came through in the third with a RBI-single, and then Jill Horvath with a two-RBI hit in the fifth to give Clarence a cushion. Both finished with two hits, and Palmeri scored on Horvath’s hit in the fifth.

Hamburg had come off its best offensive performance this season in division play the day before in a 5-1 win over Williamsville North. Leah Jones had base-clearing triple in that win and defensively, the Bulldogs converted a double play, threw out a runner at home from the outfield and played error free.

Although the defense made no key miscues against Clarence, the offense never got started. Allie Salerno singled in the seventh to represent Hamburg’s lone baserunner in the game.

“We were hitting the ball for most of the game but we definitely struggled in the first three innings,” Hamburg head coach Lisa Palma said. “After that we only had two strikeouts but the problem is when you put yourself in a hole and give Clarence three runs, it’s hard to come back from that.”

“Hats off to Clarence’s pitcher,” she added. “She’s been mowing down teams all year. We only struck out seven times. We have to look at that as a positive.”

After going unbeaten and winning a division title in ECIC II last year during the regular season, Hamburg, as expected, is facing a grind in playing a division up in ECIC I. The Bulldogs also lost 5-3 to Lancaster on April 18 and are now 3-2 in division play.

“All the coaches have said there are no easy games in this division. Hopefully it will make us stronger for when we drop down for playoffs,” said Palma, whose team will again play in Class A in the postseason and get a shot to defend its title. All other ECIC I teams play in Class AA.

After having the first game between the two postponed twice, the teams will wind up playing twice in a matter of three days. Hamburg will play at Clarence on Thursday, April 25. Palma is hoping that the quick turnaround will be beneficial for her team.

Around the local fields

North Collins ran away with two league games to improve to 4-0 in CCAA IV play. The Eagles defeated Sherman in a five-inning shortened game on April 22 and polished off Ellicottville 21-6 three days prior.

Against Ellicottville, Jessica Lawton went the distance in the circle giving up two earned runs and seven hits, while striking out eight and walking three. Christine Blidy led the offense with a grand slam and five RBI, while Arrica Bly doubled and tripled and had three RBI. Also in the win, Beth Kibler went 3 for 4 with two RBI, Nicole Torrey was 2 for 3 and Kylie Mathis contributed two hits and one RBI.

Lake Shore got over the hump in close games in a big way, coming from behind to beat a highly-regarded Iroquois team 2-1 on April 22. The Eagles received a strong pitching performance from Jessica Ackley and Machala Andrews singled in Jordan Scholl with two outs in the bottom of the seventh for the walk-off run which broke a 1-1 tie. Darian Evans, who’s been hot at the plate, ripped a single that scored Ackley to tie the game at one.

The Eagles are now 1-2 in ECIC II and 2-2 overall after also losing a pair of heartbreaking, one-run games last week, 4-3 to Williamsville South 4-3 and 1-0 to Starpoint. Down 4-0 to South in the top of the seventh inning, Andrews singled home Macey West and then Ackley ripped a two-run double, scoring Scholl and Andrews. Evans, who was 2 for 4 in the game, hit a shot to right field that was caught to end it. Andrews and Alexis Cvetanovich each had two hits, while Ackley threw six strong innings.

Starpoint pushed across the game’s winning run on a squeeze play in the seventh. Ackley threw a complete-game, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out nine. Senior Hayley Hammer finished with three hits and Cvetanovich notched two. The Eagles left eight runners on base.

Youth is not stopping Eden from getting off to a very quick start to the season. The Raiders latest win, a 4-3 victory over a tough Alden squad in a battle of early-season undefeated teams in the division, improves them to 4-0 in ECIC IV play.

In the game prior, sophomore Carly Nasca pitched a two-hitter and freshman Jill Murray knocked in two runs to help Eden to a 3-0 win over JFK. Haley Kobie, also a freshman, added two hits and one RBI in the win. Sophomore Sabrina Kraska, junior Jenny Morrow and senior Courtney Cross each added hits. Nasca struck out eight and walked only two in her complete-game performance.

In the a 13-1 win over Holland in the game prior, Cross went 2 for 4 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored. Sophomore Liz Karstedt, Nasca and Kraska all added two-hit and two-run performances, while Kobie notched three RBI. Sophomore Kelly Staub also had two hits. Murray earned the win on the mound, striking 13 in a complete-game effort.

Immaculata bounced back from a 5-3 loss to Nichols by running away with an 18-2 victory over Holy Angels on April 17 and defeating Cardinal O’Hara 12-2 on April 22 in Monsignor Martin action. The Bears also split a pair of games at the Gerry Gentner Memorial Tournament at Williamsville South on Sunday (April 21), defeating Cleveland Hill 3-2 and falling to Starpoint 6-0.

In the win over Holy Angels, six players finished with two hits for the Bears. Julia Lalka reached base five times, twice on hits, including a triple, and scored four runs and added two RBI. Cortney Carroccia also notched two hits and four runs. Adding two hits were Molly Hennessy, Sadie Chentfant, Kathryn Halloran and Sarah Lipinski. Hannah Boltz added three RBI and Hennessy, the winning pitcher, and Lipinski notched two each. Carroccia finished the final two innings in relief on the mound.

Against O’Hara, Carroccia, Lalka and Bridget Giles each recorded two RBI. Lalka, along with Hannah Boltz had two hits. Hennessy started the game on the mound and earned the win , striking out eight, with Carroccia throwing two scoreless innings to finish the game in relief.

Carroccia went 2 for 2 at the plate and threw six solid innings, striking out seven, in beating Cleveland Hill. Lalka added two hits and two RBI in the win. Lalka knocked in all three runs and recorded two of the team’s three hits in the loss to Nichols. Carroccia threw three-plus innings of relief, allowing no earned runs.


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