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Six homers carry Clarence to AA title
Hamburg tallies late for its first Class A crown

Clarence's power was front and center in its Class AA title win over Niagara Falls on Saturday. It was Hamburg's patience, however, that prevailed in the Class A title game.

The Red Devils pounded out six home runs and 17 hits in an 18-5 rout of Niagara Falls, winning their third Class AA title in five years.

Hamburg, meanwhile, scored twice in the fifth inning and added five in the sixth to beat Albion, 7-1, for its first ever overall Class A crown at windy Niagara-Wheatfield High School.

Clarence sophomore Moriah Harris led the offensive onslaught, hitting three home runs over the 214-foot sign in center field.

"An incredible day," Clarence coach Todd Banaszak said. "Simply the best hitting day from a high school kid I've seen in my 23 years of coaching softball."

Harris' first shot came after Canisius College-bound center fielder Tori Nappo hit her own homer off Wolverines starter Kelsi Leo with two outs in the top of the first.

"After (Nappo) hit that home run, you really feel nervous and you want to keep hitting," Harris said. "But I just relaxed and wanted to get a base hit. The home runs came after that."

It was only home runs for Harris, who added another, longer bomb to center in the fourth to tie the game at three.

An inning after a six-run fifth blew the game open, Harris boomed a 1-1 pitch to deep center for a two-run shot that made it 12-3. She also walked twice.

"We knew we had power, but in the last couple of weeks the kids have been really hitting it hard," Banaszak said. He said the fences prevented outfielders from simply backing up further, something his team saw often throughout the season at some fields.

Catcher Alyssa Dewes also hit a two-run homer in the fifth, while senior Lauren Muni hit a leadoff shot to left in the seventh.

Niagara Falls took a brief lead in the third on a two-run double from Toni Polk, who scored on a Jerri Ann Orfano single to make it 3-2.

Clarence pitcher Katie Bull settled down after that and went the distance.

While fences and a strong wind conspired in the Clarence blowout, it was perseverance that served Hamburg well. Leadoff hitter Allison Salerno went 3 for 4 with three RBIs in the A final, including a two-run triple in the sixth to extend the lead after she singled home the go-ahead run in the fifth.

Hamburg coach Lisa Palma was glad to get some clutch hitting from her "sparkplug" after some early-innings nerves.

"The first inning they seemed to be tense and they tend to grip the bat a little tighter," Palma said. "After that we really started finding our groove and we started stringing hits together instead of just leaving girls on base."

Bridget Hogan went the distance for the Bulldogs, striking out eight in the win. Albion's lone run came in the first, when senior Jenn Knaak scored from third on a passed ball.

Hamburg will face Pittsford-Mendon on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Far West Regionals in Niagara Falls, while Clarence will play the Section V representative at 6 p.m. for a spot in the state final four.

While Hamburg continues in uncharted waters, Clarence made the state semifinals in 2008 and 2010 and hopes to repeat the feat Tuesday.

"We're just pounding the ball this year," Harris said. "This is the team, this is the year that we can definitely go far."