SANBORN – Pitchers and catchers shined under sunny skies on Saturday afternoon in the Section VI softball finals at Niagara-Wheatfield High School.
Starpoint senior Allison Block threw a no-hitter in a 9-0 win over Williamsville East in the Class A final, while Orchard Park captured its first AA crown in 21 years with a wild 12-8 win over Clarence on the strength of four RBIs by senior catcher Katie Weimer. In the Class B final, Alden pitcher Laura Kratzke hit a pair of home runs and closed out a 7-6 win over Fredonia.
Block struck out 13 Flames – including the first five she faced – and allowed just three walks in the dazzling win.
“That’s one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen in a long time,” Williamsville East coach Chris Durr said.
No baserunner advanced past first for Williamsville East (14-10). A single ball made it past the windswept infield dirt: a sixth-inning fly out to left from senior shortstop Sara Armstrong. Block didn’t allow a run throughout the Section VI playoffs.
“I challenged her: ‘You’re the best pitcher in Western New York. Go out and prove it these playoffs,’ ” Starpoint coach Joseph Hill said.
Christy Mack reached first on a grounder to third bobbled by Kelsi Palistrant with two outs in the seventh. The play was ruled an error and the next batter, shortstop Veronica Zimmerman, popped out to Palistrant to end the game.
“I wasn’t sure it was a no-hitter until after the game,” said Block, who will pitch for Canisius College next year. “I don’t really pay attention to that stuff, but I’m glad it was. It’s cool.”
Block threw a no-hitter earlier this season against West Seneca West. Her catcher, senior Victoria Purucker, went 3 for 4 with four RBIs for the Spartans (22-2), who had lost in the Class A final the previous two seasons.
The hits came easy for both teams in the AA final, a back and forth affair that featured 16 runs and three lead changes in the first three innings.
Orchard Park batted around in the bottom half of the third, plating six straight runners all with two outs to turn a 6-4 Clarence lead into a 10-6 deficit. Weimer and right fielder Alex Sheehy each hit two-run doubles for Orchard Park.
RBI singles by Alyssa Barnas in the fourth and Alyssa Andres in the fifth helped Clarence cut the deficit to 10-8 before Weimer drove an inside pitch by Emily Schmitt over the left-center field fence to make it 12-8.
Weimer said she adjusted to the inside pitch after a strikeout in the second.
“After that last strikeout I said ‘OK, I get it,’ ” she said. “So next at bat I knew it was coming.”
Clarence (14-9) fell short of a repeat trip to the state playoffs in its eighth straight Class AA finals appearance after knocking off top seed Niagara Falls on Tuesday. Orchard Park (14-6), which lost to Clarence in the playoffs last season, moved on to the Far West Regionals.
Alden (19-3) won its first ever Class B crown in its first finals appearance since losing to Fredonia in 2006. The Bulldogs overcame a 4-1 deficit thanks to a six-run fifth inning capped by Kratzke’s three-run home run. Kratzke also hit a leadoff home run in the second inning and struck out 10, including the game’s final out with the tying run on first.
“If you told me before the game today that she was going to hit two home runs I would have told you you’re crazy,” longtime Alden coach Jeffery Kryszczuk said. “She pitched so hard and really wanted to contribute with her bat.”