Originally published by the Olean Times Herald
Written by: CHUCK POLLOCK
OLEAN — It seemed as if it would be easy.
Olean High scored three runs during a sloppy first inning for Depew in Monday’s Section 6 Class B-1 softball semifinal at OHS.
And that 3-0 lead held up until the sixth inning as Huskies pitcher Alyssa Ramarge was cruising, striking out seven and permitting only three hits.
But then fifth-seeded Depew (8-10) got a three-run homer from cleanup hitter Annie DiPirro, and suddenly, No. 1 seed Olean (13-7) was six outs away from elimination.
However, coach Dan Brooks’ crew responded in the bottom of the inning, scoring twice on three walks, a passed ball and Kylie Lyons’ game-winning RBI single.
In the seventh, Ramarge buckled down and struck out DiPirro with the bases loaded and two down to clinch a 5-4 victory.
THE WIN boosted the Huskies into Thursday evening’s sectional final against second-seeded Fredonia (13-3), a 7-5 winner over third seed Dunkirk (13-6) in yesterday’s other semifinal, at Williamsville North (6:30).
Brooks (184-63 in 10 seasons) is headed for his fourth sectional final and mighty relieved to be there.
“They started a freshman (Kennedy Cotton) on the mound and, no matter what, a freshman is still a freshman at this stage of the playoffs … you get a little tighter,” he pointed out. “I said to the girls before we came out, ‘Let’s get a lead and see what happens. That (first) was a huge inning, obviously.”
It seemed Olean would take full control in the second when, with a runner on second and nobody out, Ramarage crashed a ball deep to right that Depew outfielder Katelyn Szefler, running full-speed, made the catch on crashing into the wall.
It was a ringing endorsement for Olean’s newly-installed SPECTO fence, a product of Grand Slam Safety. The mesh surface acts almost as a vertical trampoline and Szefler bounced off, uninjured.
“The ball might have been out with our old fence,” Brooks said. “But that right fielder’s play was incredible. That girl would have gotten hurt on a metal fence.”
Depew coach Dan Seelig added, “That was a big momentum swing because we then had a double play that inning … we tried to get something going.”
So it stayed 3-0 into the sixth when Depew scored on an RBI single by Casey Borowski, then, with two runners on, DiPirro homered over the wall in left center.
“When I went to the mound, I said to Alyssa, ‘We don’t want DiPirro coming up with runners on base to tie it or go ahead with one swing of the bat,” Brooks recalled. “(We) tried to sneak an inside fastball against her and she timed it up and got it … all the credit goes to her for getting the big hit.”
As Seelig noted, “Being down 3-1, one swing of the bat changed the whole perspective of the game … to be up 4-3 at that point, man, was that exciting. DePirro putting us up was huge.”
But Olean answered in the bottom of the inning.