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Chautauqua Lake brings home first state softball championship

By Perry L. Novak, Special to the News 

SOUTH GLENS FALLS – The Chautauqua Lake softball program buried a lot of ghosts Saturday.

So often a game short in its quest to win a sectional crown or trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four, the Thunderbirds are coming home as state champions for the first time.

The Section VI Class C champion beat Section IX's Pine Plains, 9-3, in the title game after downing Section II''s Greenville, 2-0, earlier in the day at the Town of Moreau fields to win the program's first state championship.

"Every year we've come up one game shy," coach Susan Teets said. "I had high hopes this year."

Chautauqua Lake becomes the first Section VI team to win a softball state title since Orchard Park captured the Class AA crown in 2015.

The Thunderbirds started the day in great fashion, scoring twice in the first inning against Greenville then holding on to reach the finals. The second game was the opposite as Chautauqua Lake did not score until the third inning but kept up the offense to the end and tallied in each of the last five innings.

"It's a great way to end my senior year," the team's only senior, Cameryn Hawkins, said. "I dreamt this last night."

Olivia Anderson pitched both wins and helped her cause with an RBI triple to start the first game Greenville. Her blast was between two Greenville outfielders who collided trying to reach it and it allowed Lily Studley to score. Cianna Braymiller then singled home Anderson to cap the scoring.

Anderson finished with a handful of strikeouts in the first game, and the defense made the plays over the last three innings to keep Greenville from getting a runner into scoring position.

As impressive as the semifinal win was against all-state pitcher Ava Fitzmaurice, the title game was moreso.

Sure, the Bombers gave Chautauqua Lake an opening by committing two errors in the third inning. But Chatauqua Lake added a run in the third on singles by Sophie Woodis and Studley that were sandwiched around a sacrifice by Megan Fisher.

Woods then delivered the biggest blow in the fifth inning. The sophomore hit her first homer of the year for a 6-0 lead. Hawkins and Katelyn Fardink had reached in front of her on a hit batsmen and error, respectively.

"At this level you can't make this many errors," Bombers coach Les Funk said after his team lost in the state final for the second consecutive year.

Braymiller added a solo homer for Chautauqua Lakein the sixth inning but Pine Plains answered with a run by Emma Haller after she tripled and scored on an error.

Fardink singled and Woodis doubled to key a two-run rally in the top of the seventh, but Pine Plains kept battling to the end. A walk and three singles led to two runs that gave hint of how Pine Plains earned its way to the finals.

"That's the way we played all year," Funk said. "When we're down, we still fight."

But this day belonged to the Thunderbirds.

"When Sophie hit that home run, it was beautiful," Hawkins said. "It's a dream come true."

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