SANBORN – Friday was a great day for Section VI softball at Niagara-Wheatfield.
And the ending was just perfect.
Clarence senior Katrina Buczkowski threw her first career perfect game to lead the Red Devils to a 5-0 victory over Brockport in the Class AA Far West Regional playoff, one of three games won by Section VI against their counterparts from Section V (Rochester area) before an estimated combined crowd of 1,000.
Buczkowski struck out 13 and did not allow a ball to leave the infield. She also added a key RBI single during the Red Devils’ five-run sixth inning against Brockport senior Julia DiMartino, who this week was named the Gatorade New York State Player of the Year for softball and who beat Clarence in last year’s regional.
“I’ve never felt this good in my entire life,” Buczkowski said after the Red Devils earned the program’s second state final four trip in three years, and its fourth in the last seven years. “It was a huge, huge team effort. … Even though I can pitch a perfect game, that doesn’t put runs on the board. We worked so hard, so hard. We’re going to do everything we can to get to that championship.”
Clarence will be joined by Williamsville South and Eden at next Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships at Moreau Recreational Park in South Glens Falls.
Williamsville South continued to be the drama queens of the softball postseason as the Billies surrendered a 6-0 lead to Geneva in the bottom of the seventh before coming back to win, 8-7, in eight innings.
South, which scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh to win its Section VI Class A final against Starpoint, 6-4, will play at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday. The Billies’ state semifinal opponent will be the winner of today’s regional between Section III (Syracuse area) champion Oneida and Section II (Albany area) champion Troy.
Eden was utterly dominating in winning the Class B game, 14-0, over Wayland-Cohocton to earn the program’s first trip to the state final four. Junior Carly Nasca pitched the shutout as the Raiders showed off their two-armed starting staff (sophomore standout Jill Murray won the Section VI final).
The Raiders will play at 11 a.m. next Saturday; their opponent will be the winner of today’s regional between Section IX (Orange, Sullivan, Ulster counties) champion Highland and Section XI (Suffolk County, L.I.) champion Center Moriches,
Clarence (18-1), which won its first state title two seasons ago, will play at 9 a.m. next Saturday against Section VIII (Nassau County) champion East Meadow, which won the Long Island regional Friday.
While DiMartino was strong in the middle of the game, Buczkowski had the bleachers murmuring from the start as she struck out the first eight batters she faced, as well as 11 of the first 12.
Clarence took ownership of the game when it sent 10 batters to the plate in a five-run sixth. Two runs scored on wild pitches, Buczkowski knocked one in with a single, and senior Corrie Colf clobbered a two-run triple to left. Buczkowski got two ground outs before finishing the game with her 13th strikeout.
Williamsville South cruised early in its Class A regional, pounding out 12 hits as it built it 6-0 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh. Eerily, the Billies were then on the opposite side of the same kind of comeback they had authored in the sectional final on the same field two days earlier.
Geneva had 11 batters go to the plate, getting three hits and taking advantage of four South errors to tie the game. With two out and the winning run on third base, South coach Julie Murphy replaced senior starter Sam Moon with senior Courtney Gracz, who got a ground out to send the game to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, South rebounded with two runs on RBI singles by senior Stephanie Tirone and junior Nicole Rice. Gracz got out of a two-on, one-out jam to give South the win and its first trip to the state final four since 2006.
“We have seven seniors and I said, ‘this is not our last game,’ ” said Murphy. “I’m not a real screamer, but I said, this is not the way we go out. Our main goal is that I want the seniors to win their last game. One step at a time.”
Eden steadily built a lead against Wayland-Cohocton, scoring in the first three innings to go up, 5-0. Entering the seventh it had a 6-0 advantage, as Hayley Kobie belted a three-run homer to highlight an eight-run inning by the Raiders.
“These girls don’t stop,” said Eden coach Marisa Fallacaro. “Other schools have great pitchers, but I really think I have the best 1-2 combination. “Carly knew today that Jill may come in. She did great today. Jill is more strike-strike-strike, and Carly works her way around. We’ll take those ground balls all day long.”
Nasca threw a three-hitter with five strikeouts and retired the side in order the last four innings.
“We had expectations – we knew that we were going to go far, but this is still a surprise,” said Nasca. “I had no idea I’d ever feel the feeling of going to states. It’s really awesome.”