DUNKIRK – It’s not ideal scoring just once a game, but Depew would be in favor of a first-to-score-one-run rule wins in softball, considering the success the Wildcats have had in those types of contests this postseason.
Eden, on the other hand, is a fan of the score early-and-often method of winning.
When the two Section VI champions clash at 5 p.m. Friday at Niagara-Wheatfield High School for the overall Class B title, it should make for great theater.
One is all Depew needed for the second game in a row, as the Wildcats won their first Section VI championship since 2011 by beating defending champion Alden, 1-0, via international tiebreaker rule in 10 innings Wednesday night before an estimated 300 at Prommenschenkel Field.
With Alyssa Nichy starting the bottom half of the 10th at second base due to the tiebreaker, senior co-captain Abby Nicometi’s walk-off double to deep left center drove in the run that enabled Depew to exorcise some recent championship-game demons.
The Wildcats have made the sectional final six straight years but lost in the final the last four, including last year’s 4-2 defeat to Alden which went on to reach the state semifinals.
With the cast of both teams pretty much the same, Depew flipped the script Wednesday in the Class B-1 final.
“It feels amazing,” said winning pitcher Karsen Cotton, who yielded just three hits and struck out five. “I was so happy as soon as Abby hit the run home. … Alden is such a good team. It was a great game.”
In the nightcap of Wednesday’s twin bill, Eden seized control with a four-run second inning in a 6-1 victory over Fredonia in Class B-2. Freshman Mattie Woodard’s two-run single gave Raiders senior pitcher Jill Murray all the support she needed. Eden’s final four runs were all unearned against a Hillbillies team that starts just one senior.
“It’s a pretty good feeling getting this far,” said Raiders freshman Paiton Basinski, who went 1 for 3 with two runs scored.
Depew coach Dan Seelig is feeling pretty good about his team, especially in close games. Fifth-year pitcher Cotton is the reason for that, as she has yet to allow an earned run in the playoffs.
Cotton kept the good-hitting Bulldogs off-balance by changing speed and location throughout.
Still, one couldn’t help but think her effort would go for naught with Depew failing to cash in several quality scoring chances from the fourth inning to the eighth.
Four times in that stretch, the Wildcats had at least one runner reach second base. Returning All-Western New York pitcher Laura Kratzke, who battled through discomfort after being plunked in her pitching arm during an at-bat, relied on her defense to make the plays that denied Depew.
Alden made two great plays to end innings with second baseman Jenna Wlostowski’s diving catch on a popup destined for no man’s land with runners at second and third in the fourth and shortstop Brittany Jordon snagging a bullet line drive off Nicometi’s bat a runner at second in the seventh.
There was no catching Nicometi’s blast in the 10th inning.
“As soon as the ball hit the ground, I was so excited,” said Nicometi.
“I thought the teams mirrored each other, but I thought in the end we’d come out on top,” said Bulldogs coach Jeffrey Kryszczuk, whose team featured eight returnees from last year.
Murray, one of the holdovers from Eden’s 2014 state title team, again delivered in a big game, striking out nine and scattering four hits.
But the Raiders’ offense was the big story. No. 8 hitter Woodard led a nine-hit attack with three hits and scored twice.
“We’ve got our bats working,” Raiders coach Marisa Fallacaro said. “Knock on wood, hopefully they keep working.”