FILLMORE — After capturing the program’s first Section VI championship since 2010 on Tuesday, Westfield had dreams of playing for a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D softball title on Long Island.
Instead, the Wolverines’ season came to an end at Friday’s Far West Regional in rural Allegany County.
Neveah Ross had a lot to do with that.
The Scio/Friendship sophomore right-hander scattered eight hits and struck out 16 as the Eagles shut out Westfield 4-0 at Fillmore Central School.
“The girls were very nervous going into this game,” Scio/Friendship head coach Deb Warner said, “but they really wanted to go to Long Island.”
Scio/Friendship took the lead in the bottom of the third inning, thanks in large part to some uncharacteristic sloppy defense from the Wolverines.
Keely Sisson opened the inning with a pop-up behind second base that fell in for a single when no Westfield defender caught it. Sisson then stole second and the throw went into center field allowing her to take third base.
“Sometimes our girls will have a bad at-bat and sometimes they’ll take it to the field a little bit,” Westfield head coach Shawn Gnadzinski said. “I felt like some of our girls were doing that. It’s our job to tell them not to do that.”
After a strikeout, Ross hit a ball to the middle of the infield and an error attempting to throw Sisson out at the plate allowed the run to score. Ross ended up at second on the play and then stole third before a two-out error plated the second run.
“A few miscues. A few misplays,” Gnadzinski said. “They put the ball in play. We don’t get the ball put in play a whole bunch of times when Haleigh (Dellow’s) on the mound.”
The Eagles made it 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ross singled to open the frame and went to second on Claire Calhoun’s bunt single. Ross then made an ill-advised attempt to reach third on the play, and Dellow ran from her pitcher’s circle and tagged Ross out.
Morghyn Ross, Neveah’s eighth-grade sister, then singled to right field. Kendra Gleason then grounded to third and the Wolverines made the out at first base, but a throw to the plate was dropped allowing Calhoun to score. After a wild pitch, Katherine Lamberson’s swinging-bunt single plated the final run.
“It was the end of our lineup that scored first,” Warner said. “It opened the gap and I think everyone else started to fill in.”
Westfield certainly had chances to score in the later innings. Neveah Ross struck out five in the first two innings, but the Wolverines stranded 10 runners on base over the final five innings.
“I felt that we were having some quality at-bats. I felt like every inning we were getting girls in scoring position. We just couldn’t get that one hit,” Gnadzinski said. “We failed on some bunts. … We just could not get that one hit.”
In the third, Drew Ernewein hit a one-out triple and Dellow reached second when Scio/Friendship elected not to make a play on her single with Ernewein on third. Neveah Ross got out of the frame with a pair of strikeouts.
In the fourth, Casey Black and Madyson Burgess singled with one out, but Neveah Ross struck out another two Wolverines to end the inning.
“She moves the ball around so much and throws off-speed. She even puts spin on some of the balls, especially if she knows they are bunting,” Warner said. “She just has a wide variety of pitches that she can use.”
Dellow reached on a fielder’s choice with one out before Tanleigh Bestine and Sydney Hotchkiss walked with two outs in the fifth to load the bases, but another strikeout ended the threat.
Burgess singled again in the sixth and was stranded before Eva Gnadzinski and Hotchkiss singled in the seventh. But again, Neveah Ross got out of the jam with her 16th strikeout, sending the Eagles to next Saturday’s state final four at the Moriches Athletic Complex.
“She plays all year-round. She let runners get on, but she came back and battled,” Warner said. “Her teammates look at her as a leader. Her and her sister, you can’t find a better catcher.”
The Wolverines graduate just one senior, center fielder Bianca Seger, and will look to take another step forward in 2023 after last year’s sectional semifinal loss and this season’s Far West Regional loss.
“I told the girls to make sure they celebrate the season they just had. It hurts to lose the last one. I’d like to win the last one one time,” Gnadzinski said. ” … We are young. We’ll set goals and this’ll be one of them for sure.”