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Section VI takes aim at state championships

The last time Section VI softball had a state champion was 2006.

Today, five teams try to take the first of three steps on that playoff road.

Clarence (Class AA), Hamburg (A) and Cleveland Hill (B) will play in the Far West Regionals at Niagara Falls today, while Frewsburg (C) and Forestville (D) will play regional games at Monroe Community College.

The winners head down the Thruway to the Queensbury Athletic Complex for Saturday's state championships. Semifinals are held in the morning with state championship games in the afternoon.

The games at Niagara Falls -- which will be played on a pair of diamonds -- are at 4 (B), 5 (A) and 6 p.m. (AA). The games at MCC are at 3 (C) and 5 p.m. (D).

Here's a rundown of today's regionals, which include the teams' state rankings as of May 27:

CLASS AA -- No. 12 Clarence vs. No. 29 Fairport: The Red Devils are aiming for their third trip to the state final four in the last five years, and they're facing the same team they beat in the regionals in 2008 and 2010.

"The kids are focused and just worried about [Fairport]," said Clarence coach Todd Banaszak. "We know they've been really successful over the years."

Fairport (16-8) is led by Mackenzie Cleary, a junior who starred in the pitching circle as well as at the plate in the Red Raiders' 6-3 Section V victory over Webster Schroeder on Saturday. Cleary pitched a complete game while she went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs as Fairport won its fourth Section V title in five years. She struck out three and wiggled out of trouble several times as Webster Schroeder left 12 runners on base.

The way Clarence has been hitting lately, it would be hard to think it would strand that many. The Red Devils' last three scores have been 12-1 (quarterfinal win over Kenmore West), 18-5 (semifinal vs. Niagara-Wheatfield) and 17-5 (including six home runs in the championship win over Niagara Falls).

"The bats are going -- the kids are hitting the ball harder every time out," Banaszak said. "They are really pounding it. Our defense has been pretty good, and you can't take anything away from Katie [Bull, senior]. She's 18-1."

CLASS A: No. 4 Hamburg vs. No 9 Pittsford-Mendon: The Bulldogs enter the state playoffs as a rookie after the program's first sectional championship, and they face an opponent that knows its way around.

Pittsford-Mendon is the defending state champion after finishing as the runner-up in 2010.

"They've been a powerhouse the last couple years," Hamburg coach Lisa Palma said. "We want to play our game. We want to stay loose [today] and not squeeze the bats too hard."

The Bulldogs are coming off a 7-1 title win over Albion.

"Our last game was our most complete game," Palma said. "Everybody that could play played, it was a complete team win. With Bridget [Hogan] on the mound, Allison Salerno is 7 of her last 8, and we've been able to get her home the majority of the time. We're just looking forward to it."

CLASS B -- No. 22 Cleveland Hill vs. No. 13 Mynderse: The first-time sectional champion Golden Eagles aim to live up to Section VI's dominant regional run in this classification.

Section VI has won the Class B regional for eight straight years. All of those wins have come from Chautauqua-Cattaraugus powers Falconer, Fredonia and Olean -- the same kind of teams Cleve Hill had to beat to win its first sectional title.

"We did well through our division [ECIC IV], which was strong this year, and as time goes on, you believe in yourselves," said Cleveland Hill coach David Hehr, whose team beat Dunkirk, 7-3, in the Class B final. "When we saw the [sectional] bracket we knew we'd have to go through all of the Southern Tier schools, and we know how strong that division is -- Fredonia, Falconer and Dunkirk -- they are just such strong teams.

"But we played so well together and I guess the rest is Cleveland Hill history."

Cleve Hill takes on a Mynderse team that has fallen to those CCAA teams in the regional round as it has won four straight Section V crowns.

CLASS C -- No. 16 Frewsburg vs. No. 7 Caledonia-Mumford: The Lady Bears are aiming for their second straight trip to the final four; last year they beat Oakfield-Alabama, 6-2, for their first trip to states since 1997. Junior Sam Mott had 12 strikeouts in Frewsburg's 3-2 championship win over Portville.

CLASS D: No. 7 Forestville vs. No. 25 Batavia Notre Dame: This is a rematch from last season, when the Hornets lost to the private school Fighting Irish, 12-5. Notre Dame went on to the state final.


Live blog today

Follow a live blog of today's three softball finals at Niagara Falls at the Prep Talk blog at Any Twitter updates with the hashtag #preptalkscores from today's playoff action will also appear in the blog.