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Williamsville East's championship quests ends in state softball final

MOREAU – One well-placed shot was all it took to help crown a champion.

The way Williamsville East has been hitting the ball this softball season that seemed like the perfect scenario for the Flames to turn their title dream into reality.

Instead, it was a grounder in a hole that would've been a tough play even if sure-handed shortstop Christy Mack had fielded the ball cleanly that eventually led to the long faces that walked off the diamond at Moreau Recreation Park on Saturday afternoon.

The best run in the history of Williamsville East softball ended with a 1-0 loss to Section IV's Maine-Endwell in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class A final. The Spartans scored the run they needed in the bottom of the sixth with two outs on Emily Hess' hot grounder between the third-base and shortstop hole.

She then retired the final two batters she faced on fielder's choice grounders to escape a minor seventh-inning jam to secure the Spartans' second straight state championship.

"They made good contact in a big spot," Flames coach Chris Durr said. "That's the way softball goes sometimes.

"We just couldn't get that one big hit that we've gotten all year."

The seventh was the fourth straight inning in which Williamsville East put runners on base but failed to come up with the key hit to finish a long day that began with a 7-3 triumph in the semifinals over Section III champion Jamesville-DeWitt.

In the earlier game, the last four batters in the Flames' order combined to drive in six runs. In the finale, Will East out-hit Maine-Endwell, 5-4, but couldn't get that one big knock to blow open an inning as it did in reaching the final Class A softball game of the NYSPHSAA season.

Williamsville East came into Saturday off a 21-hit attack in crushing Section V champion Our Lady of Mercy to earn its first trip to the state final four. East recorded nine against J-D.The Flames were trying to become just the second sport in Williamsville East history to win a state title – joining hockey back in 2004.

Durr has piloted three Will East programs to state final fours (girls soccer and girls basketball the others). The Flames put themselves in position to play for the championship by getting the bats going in key spots against Jamesville-DeWitt.

Abbie Stellrecht (2 for 2) drove in two of her three runs with a double during East's three-run first inning. Maddy Miske's two-run double in the fifth extended a 5-3 advantage. Stellrecht, an eighth-grader, added two hits in the final to finish off a 4-for-5 day.

Maine-Endwell's Hess set the tone by recording seven of her 11 strikeouts during the first three innings. She also made the key pitches to prevent Williamsville East hitters from making solid contact with runners on base.

"She pitched really well," said senior first baseman Bri Bucello. "We hung in there. She moved the ball really well. I thought it was a great game all-around."

It was, just like the season for the Flames (18-4).

Unfortunately for the Section VI champions, they fell short in earning the right to be the team to celebrate wildly during the final championship coronation of the playoffs.

"We went further than any other team in school history besides the hockey team," Durr said. "I couldn't be any more proud of the way they represented the school. It was a great ride."

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