Weekly Feature



2018-06-07 / Sports

Iroquois softball reaches first-ever state semi

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter


Rachel Yax connects for a single to center field during the Iroquois softball team’s 6-2 triumph over Williamsville East in the Section VI Class A title game at Williamsville North on May 29. 
Photo by Jake French Rachel Yax connects for a single to center field during the Iroquois softball team’s 6-2 triumph over Williamsville East in the Section VI Class A title game at Williamsville North on May 29. Photo by Jake French The regional round is no longer the place where Iroquois softball seasons come to an end.

The Lady Chiefs, who last reached the Far West Regionals – to the best of athletics director and former varsity softball coach Peter Tonsoline’s knowledge, since he said exact records were not kept that far back – around 1980, broke their 0-for-6 streak in the state quarterfinals on Saturday by taking down Rochester’s Mercy, 4-1, in a game played at Williamsville East High School.

Brooke Plonka, one of six current Lady Chiefs to play for Tonsoline as sophomores during his final season with the team, was once again on her game in the pitcher’s circle, striking out 13 batters and allowing just six hits on the day. She was also one of five Iroquois players to collect a hit on the day.


Iroquois’ Brooke Plonka showed no mercy to the Lady Chiefs’ Class A Far West Regional opponent from Section V, striking out 13 batters to pace Iroquois in its 4-1 victory over Rochester Mercy in Saturday’s game at Williamsville East. It was Iroquois’ first regional win in program history. 
Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Iroquois’ Brooke Plonka showed no mercy to the Lady Chiefs’ Class A Far West Regional opponent from Section V, striking out 13 batters to pace Iroquois in its 4-1 victory over Rochester Mercy in Saturday’s game at Williamsville East. It was Iroquois’ first regional win in program history. Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com “Brooke just continues to get the ball and take care of business for us,” coach Aaron Vanderlip said. “They had the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, for instance, and she got two strikeouts to leave them stranded. It was pretty impressive. As a group, it’s just unbelievable to do what we’ve done this year. Our first thing was, let’s see if we can win sectionals. Now, it’s all one game at a time. We have one more step to take and we can actually be playing for a state championship.”

Kennedy Haberl’s double off the top of the fence in the third inning driving in the team’s first run of the game. The Lady Chiefs tacked on two more runs, including what would be the game-winner, in the fifth inning before adding an insurance run in the sixth. Mercy, which committed six errors for the game, scored its only run in the top of the seventh but couldn’t string enough offense together to construct a serious rally.

“We took advantage of some of their defensive miscues they had, which helped us to push some runners across the plate,” Vanderlip said. “And if Kennedy’s shot had been just a little higher and longer, it would’ve gone for three runs instead of just one. We knew their pitcher would keep us a little off balance with the way she threw – we hadn’t seen some of the stuff she had – so it was really important to practice against some of that stuff leading into the game. It’s safe to say it paid off.”

Olivia Simon has the only other Lady Chief to collect both a hit and an RBI, while Rachel Yax and Alexis Young had the other hits. Madison Hoeflich, meanwhile, had the other RBI for Iroquois, which advanced to the regional round after taking down Williamsville East in the overall Section VI Class A final, 6-2, on May 29.

The Lady Chiefs once again jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but after loading the bases in the first and scoring just one run, Vanderlip wondered to himself if that would be enough against a team like the Lady Flames, who “has a strong lineup from one through nine.” That wonder elevated closer to alarm after East scored twice in the bottom of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead, but Iroquois strung together a bunch of hits in the top of the seventh to score five runs and swing the game’s momentum entirely in its favor.

Hoeflich got the Lady Chiefs’ rally started and was then bunted into scoring position by Young. Haberl then worked a 12-pitch at-bat before drawing a walk to set up Plonka for a two-run double. Braun and Yax also had key hits during that stretch.

“We just had to try and figure out a way to get more runs down the stretch,” Vanderlip said. “We knew we needed to take that outside corner pitch when we could, and we did. It was just really great to get five runs in the top of seventh off a team like that. It really was a special run for us.

“These girls had been working so hard toward this all year, so it was just great to pull off that win,” Vanderlip continued. “East was the top team in Western New York when we played them, and we hadn’t even cracked the rankings yet. We heard some chatter about how they would just walk right into the state semis, and that just fired up our girls and helped them mentally come out ready to play.”

Yax (2 runs) was the only Lady Chief to finish with multiple hits, with Plonka (2 RBIs), Braun (1 RBI), and Hoeflich also collecting hits. Plonka also struck out 13 batters at the plate for Iroquois (18-1 overall), which faces Long Island’s Mount Sinai at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Town of Moreau Recreational Park, which is near Glens Falls, in one of the two state semifinals.

Whichever team wins will then face the victor in the other semifinal, between Section IV’s Maine-Endwell and Section II’s Averill Park, at 4 p.m. the same day.

“We don’t have a bunch on Mount Sinai yet, but I’m starting to dig around to see what I can find,” Vanderlip said. “In all honesty, we just need to keep doing well what we do well: hit the ball, play defense and get good pitching. We can control what we do, and if we do that we’ll be in good shape.”

“This team has exceeded all expectations except their own, and what they’ve accomplished this year is a credit to them and to their coaches’ determination to play the best they could each and every game,” Tonsoline said.

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

Return to top