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Williamsville North ends Orchard Park softball's reign

Williamsville North started what it hopes to be a run of a lifetime by ending Orchard Park's two-year championship reign in softball.

The Spartans are Section VI Class AA champions for the first time since 2009.

They did it by defeating the two-time defending champion Quakers , 4-2, on Tuesday before an estimated 500 at Clarence High School.

North (15-6-1) bolted to a 4-0 lead and then repelled a late Quakers comeback attempt by relying on the arms of senior hurler Emily Nicosia and sophomore catcher Abby Vincent to advance to Friday's 1:30 p.m. Far West Regional showdown against Section V champion Victor at Brockport State.

"It's amazing," said Nicosia, the Canisius College commit who recorded three of her five strikeouts in the seventh inning and yielded two runs on six hits. "I think our team really deserves this more than anyone. We had probably the hardest bracket to get here."

Nicosia isn't kidding.

The fifth-seeded Spartans defeated always tough Kenmore West of the Niagara Frontier League in the quarterfinals. They followed that by stunning state No. 1 and former unbeaten Lancaster, 5-2, in a semifinal played over two days due to wet weather. That's the same Legends team that beat North twice during the regular season, averaging 7.5 runs in those wins.

The Spartans finished the job in sectionals by taking down an Orchard Park team coming off back-to-back state final appearances – which included the championship in 2015.  North did it by getting off to a quick start against a team it lost to twice during the season.

In the top of the first, sophomore Allie Macon drove in two runs with a single. Anna Brand led off the game with a bunt hit as the ball came to a dead stop in the Bermuda triangle between the catcher, pitcher's circle and third base. With two outs, Nicosia drew a walk. With Mariah Nablo serving as Nicosia's courtesy runner, Nablo and Brand each advanced on a pitch in the dirt. Macon then put a good swing on a 2-2 offering from OP's Elizabeth Lis.

"I knew she didn't want to throw a ball so I was looking for a strike and I drove it to right," Macon said.

Orchard Park (17-4), which fell behind in last year's sectional final before winning in convincing fashion, stranded three runners through the first three innings Tuesday. The Quakers then got two of their first three batters aboard in the seventh but failed to bring them home.

"We just came up a little short today," OP coach Brittany Bonetto said. "We just couldn't get that key hit today."

The Spartans tacked on an unearned run in the fourth as Renee Shapiro reached on a throwing error and then took second on an errant pick-off attempt. She scored on Jordan Cooper's single to left. North made it 4-0 on Shapiro's RBI triple in the sixth.

The Quakers made North work for the final six outs. Kayla Raymond's two-run double cut the deficit in half. But Vincent ended the threat when she threw out Raymond trying to swipe third on a low pitch out of the strike zone.

"That was huge," said first-year North coach Michelle Switzer, who helped Williamsville South win two state titles during her scholastic career. "Abby always comes up big for us. A couple days ago, she threw out one of the fastest girls in our league. That was a huge momentum shift. That was great."

Nicosia made sure the play wasn't for naught by working out of a jam in the seventh. With runners at first and second and one out, Nicosia struck out Madison Stewart and Lauren Miller to secure North's crowning moment.

"I couldn't be more proud of these girls and happier," Switzer said. "They were learning how to be champions all throughout the year. They just stayed the course."

"It feels nice," Macon said.

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