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Depew's quest for the state championship runs into a final road block

MOREAU -- The four seniors on the Depew softball team leave behind a legacy of winning, and a standard of excellence for future editions of the Wildcats.

They helped coach Dan Seelig's program go from perennial league title contender to bona fide players for the Section VI championship.

They also gave Depew a chance at earning the historic crowning moment, but another senior had a hand in denying the Wildcats of such a feat while ending a decades-long championship drought for her school.

Depew's quest to win the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class B championship ended Saturday night at Moreau Recreation Park. Solvay came out on the positive end of a pitchers' duel to earn a 1-0 victory at Moreau Recreation Park near Glens Falls.

After riding senior Karsen Cotton's no-hitter to a 1-0 semifinal triumph over previously unbeaten Babylon of Section XI, Lauren Nichols of the unbeaten Section III champions from Solvay frustrated Depew hitters. Nichols yielded just two hits and struck out nine – including five during the final three innings.

The closest the Wildcats came to securing a hit down the stretch was on a screaming liner to right to open the bottom of the seventh. Right fielder Althea Davies prevented the ball from falling in by making a nice running stab on the shot off the bat of Jordyn Petyk to thwart a potential rally by the Wildcats.

"We played like champions," Seelig said. " We're holding our head's up high because we feel we played as well as we could."

They did, with Cotton leading the charge from the pitcher's circle.

She held the Bearcats to three hits. While she only struck out two after fanning 10 earlier in the day during her no-no against Babylon (24-1), she kept the Bearcats off balance most of the time. Her defense made several nice plays – including a rally-killing diving stop with the bases loaded at second by Andrea Taboni, who flipped to Alyssa Nichy at short to end the sixth and keep it a 1-0 deficit.

Solvay (23-0) pushed across the run it needed to put itself in position to win its first state title since 1986 in the fourth. With one out, Nichols hit a triple on a hard liner to right. Cotton then got Caitlin McCann to hit the grounder needed for a potential bang-bang play at the plate. But the home plate umpire ruled obstruction as catcher Juliana Ciesielski caught the throw from Taboni while trying to apply a tag.

"I didn't really think it was obstruction," said Taboni. "The catcher had to cover the plate to get the out but it didn't work out in our favor."

"Definitely surprised," Seelig said of the call. "The catcher is going to be there all day to make that play, waiting for ball to get there. Sometimes you get breaks, sometimes you don't. We didn't get that one."

Depew (18-6) made its own break to put itself in position to play for the championship earlier Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats did it by pushing across the go-ahead run via squeeze play in the top of the seventh. Senior Ashley Crawley's bunt plated courtesy runner Katelyn Szefler from third after sophomore Jenna Marranca's one-out single. An error on Nichy's sacrifice bunt moved Marranca to third, where she was lifted for Szefler.

Cotton retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to win yet another big playoff game in a six-year career filled with them.

It'll be different next season with Cotton, the Niagara University commit, among the players the team loses to graduation along with Crawley, Brooke Whalen and Kaitlynn Rowland.

They along with the talented group of underclassmen lifted the Wildcats into a position where they got to play in the final softball game of the season.

They didn't win it but still got farther than any other Wildcats team -- including last year's state semifinalist crew.

"We thought we had it," Taboni said.

"Second isn't that bad," Cotton said.

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