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The perfect ending: Williamsville East captures first state softball title

SOUTH GLENS FALLS – History, perfection and a state championship – all wrapped up neatly in scarlet and gold bows.

Big-time performances from departing seniors and returning underclassmen are the reasons Williamsville East completed a flawless season and returned home as New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A champions in softball.

The Flames secured their first state crown by defeating never-say-die Ballston Spa of Section II, 3-0, Saturday afternoon at Harry J. Betar Jr. Recreation Park. Seniors Christy Mack and Maddy Miske connected on back to back homers to break open a scoreless knot in the bottom of the fifth. That was more than enough run support for sophomore pitcher Summer Clark.

On the day of her Sweet 16th birthday, Clark tossed the complete-game two-hitter with nine strikeouts, retiring the final 10 batters she faced after yielding a two-out triple in the fourth.

With the win, softball becomes the first girls team at Williamsville East to win a state championship. Overall, it’s just the second team at the school to win a state title, joining boys hockey (2004).

Twenty-seven up, 27 down during a 27-0 season for the Flames.

“It’s the best birthday present ever,” said Clark, the Missouri commit who also threw a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts in Saturday morning’s 6-0 semifinal win over I-Walter Panas. “It means so much we’re the first (girls) team in school history to win a state championship. We made the school so proud.”

“This is incredible,” added Mack, a six-year starter and one of several holdovers from East’s state runner-up team two years ago. “I’ve never felt this happy, I don’t know how to put it into words. This team deserves it. We’ve been working hard our whole season and it shows this whole season. … Give all the glory to God I’m just really grateful I was blessed to be on this team.”

Mack, a multi-time All-Western New York first teamer, made a subtle, veteran play that helped open the floodgates against a Ballston Spa team that handed previous unbeaten Sayville a 2-1 loss in 20 innings in the other state semifinal, which took roughly four hours to finish.

“Once I saw a couple pitches my first at bat I realized she had a rise and a curve and I realized I had to move up in the box before it tails,” said Mack, who went 3 for 4 with two walks in both games. “That’s key.  … I caught the rise before it broke so I was up in the box rather than in the back of the box so then when the ball came in it wasn’t already over my head by the time I swung so I moved up to get the ball before it broke.”

“She changed the entire momentum of the game with that swing,” classmate Rachel Steffan said.

Miske followed with the first homer of her career in what’s likely her final at-bat. She plans to play basketball at SUNY Fredonia.

“It’s just an awesome feeling after losing two years ago to come back and win it all it’s just an incredible feeling I can’t even explain,” she said.

Let the record show that the seniors delivered on Saturday. During the semifinal win over Walter Panas, Steffan (three hits) broke a scoreless tie in the top of the first with a two out solo shot to right center, and that helped relax eighth-grader Ella Wesolowski, who followed with a solo shot to center field. Wesolowski also hit a three-run homer in the seventh to give the Flames breathing room.

The state championship is the first in the coaching career of Chris Durr. During his 26 years at Williamsville East he has guided girls basketball to a state final four appearance and girls soccer to two state semifinals.

“I’m just happy for the kids,” Durr said. “It’s not about me. I was just along for the ride. It’s probably the greatest team we’ve ever had at Williamsville East. To finish undefeated is amazing.”

“This is probably the best moment of my entire high school career and I’m just glad I could do it with this group of girls,”  Steffan said. “We made history.”

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