Williamsville East senior Tori Thuman said she thrives for the situations when her team needs her the most.
Down, 4-3, to Grand Island in the top of the sixth inning of the Class A-1 final on Thursday, Thuman belted a two-strike fastball for a three-RBI double. The hit sparked a five-run top of the sixth inning for the No. 3 Flames, who eliminated the top-seeded Vikings, 8-4.
“I love bases-loaded and I love feeling that everybody’s confident in me, so I just took a deep breath, zoned in and tried to produce for my team,” said Thuman.
Two batters later, eighth-grader Christy Mack drove in Thuman on a double of her own. Mack later in the inning scored one of her two runs on a passed ball to help secure Williamsville East’s fifth sectional title and first under fourth-year coach Chris Durr.
Also winning in the quartet of sectional finals held at Niagara-Wheatfield on Thursday were No. 2 Alden, 4-2, over No. 1 Depew in Class B-1, No. 1 Starpoint, 2-0, against No. 3 West Seneca East in A-2 and No. 3 Fredonia, 8-3, versus No. 1 Royalton-Hartland in B-2.
Alden (18-3) is set to take on Fredonia (16-5) in the B Crossover at 11 a.m. Saturday. Starpoint (21-2) and Williamsville East (14-9) will meet in the A Crossover at noon. Both regional qualifiers will be played back at Niagara-Wheatfield.
Starpoint captured its third sectional title in a row under head coach Joseph Hill. He’s hoping the next round will be a different outcome than the other two, when the Spartans lost to a pair of eventual state champions (Hamburg in 2013 and Williamsville South last year).
“We ran into hot teams, unfortunately,” Hill said. “We were a great team and we had a chance to win both of those games, especially last year’s. … I’ve got a good core, veteran group back here and I think they’re ready.”
Senior pitcher Allison Block gave up only one hit and recorded 12 strikeouts in a complete game of work. With her second straight shutout, Hill said Block hasn’t given up a run yet in the postseason.
“I said it in the beginning, I think she’s the best pitcher in Western New York,” Hill said. “And one of the challenges I had for her was to prove it. Prove it so there’s no debate. … To win at this time of the year you got to have your great players step up, and she did, no question about it.”
Sierra Belkota scored Starpoint’s first run in the third inning and Kelsi Palistrant rounded out the scoring in the fourth.
Alden rode the right arm of its ace, Laura Kratzke, to its first sectional championship in school history. The junior threw a complete game seven-hitter with eight strikeouts and one earned run. She also batted in a run in the top of the fifth to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
“This year, especially, she’s much more mature and confident,” Jeff Krysczuk said about Kratzke. “No matter who we play, she’s ready to fire. She’s ready to play every time she steps on the mound.”
Freshman lead-off hitter Jenna Wlostowski went 3 for 4 with a double and a two-RBI triple in the sixth inning, which extended Alden’s lead to 4-1.
Fredonia jumped on Roy-Hart quickly in its victory with four runs in the first inning.
“Once you do something like that right away, your adrenaline goes up,” Fredonia coach Tim Wright said. “We end up scoring four, and that’s really what put us in a good frame of mind.”
Senior Baylee Tarnowski helped herself offensively before she even had to step in the pitching circle when she drove in the first two runs of the game with a single. She scattered seven hits while walking none, striking out two and allowing two earned runs in seven innings.
Tarnowski and sophomore sisters Hannah and Caitlyn Cybart each scored two runs for the Hillbillies. Caitlyn went 3 for 4 with a RBI.