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Lancaster beats Orchard Park 3-1 to win Section VI Class AA softball title

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Orchard Park Lancaster Softball

Lancaster pitcher Madi Balk winds up during the first inning of the Section VI Class AA softball final on May 31, 2022.

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For the first time in four years, the Lancaster Legends have claimed the Section VI Class AA softball championship, defeating Orchard Park 3-1 in 11 innings at Depew High School on Tuesday.

“I’m just so proud of them,” Lancaster coach Kelly Ambrose said. “I’m just so happy for them, they worked so hard all season long. They’ve done everything the right way. They’ve had great sportsmanship, they’ve been great to each other, and they’re such a great and close team.

“To play a game like that against another great team like Orchard Park, just full of pride for them and so happy for them and so happy they’ll have this memory for the rest of their life.”

The Legends got their momentum going with senior captain Kaitlin Romanowski starting the top of the 11th inning on second base due to the international tiebreaker rule.

Sophomore Karly Schurkus was the first Legend at the plate and went for the bunt with an 0-1 count. Orchard Park pitcher Madalyn Covelli fielded the bunt but overthrew first base, allowing Romanowski to score, making it 2-1, with Schurkus advancing to second.

“I knew what I had to do,” Schurkus said. “My first missed bunt, I saw the first baseman creeping up, so I knew I had to get it by her. As soon as I saw her creeping up, I pushed it a little further past her and knew I had to sprint to first.”

With Schurkus on second base with no outs, senior pitcher Madi Balk hit a ground ball towards second, but the second baseman overthrew first, allowing Schurkus to score for a 3-1 lead. Balk was thrown out trying to advance to second.

“We really held our composure, we kept it together,” Schurkus said.

After making consecutive errors, Orchard Park got out of the jam as Covelli retired sophomore Francesca Morris out on a groundout to shortstop and junior Eleanor Park on a groundout to second.

In the bottom of the 11th, Balk set down Orchard Park in order to finish off the victory. She ended the game with 16 strikeouts, giving up three hits and five walks. Orchard Park’s Covelli had 12 strikeouts and allowed three hits and one walk.

Both teams had their ups and downs and found themselves in predicaments their pitchers needed to work out of. Lancaster pulled out of a pivotal jam in the eighth inning.

Orchard Park was chanting the lyrics to “Pump It Up,” by Endor, along with “We want it.” The Quakers started strong by putting two runners on base, but Lancaster buckled down and Balk escaped the jam by striking out two and inducing a fly out to end the inning.

Balk, a Florida State commit, entered the game with 259 strikeouts in 121.1 innings.

“I trusted myself to get out of it,” Balk said. “It was just actually cool to trust myself and be able to do that. I knew my defense had my back. Whatever I threw, I knew they were going to help me out.”

Getting out of trouble, persevering through extra innings and eliminating reigning sectional champion Clarence made the journey to the Class AA title much more special for Lancaster.

“It’s awesome,” Balk said. “I know last year, coming in second, it was definitely heartbreaking. We definitely fought really hard for it this year. Moving on to regional and states is going to be so much fun with this team. We’re all super close.”

Lancaster will play Fairport of Section V on Saturday at Grand Island at 5 p.m.

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Sports Reporter

Born and raised in Boston, MA. My experience includes The Boston Globe, The Arizona Republic, The Athletic, The Tennessean, Bleacher Report and NBC Sports Northwest. Open to suggestions and connections:

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