OLEAN - When the Frewsburg Bears boarded the bus for their trip to the Class C Far West Regional softball playoff game Tuesday, they were handed a gift bag.
Along with it was a note from a parent of one of the team's eight seniors.
According to Coach Jon Blanchard, the missives talked about - one - the pride the parents had for the girls and - two - ''a special thing'' about each one of them.
Above, Frewsburg pitcher Sam Mott, left, shares an embrace with catcher Reyanne Strong after the Bears’ Class C Far West Regional softball win on Tuesday. Ready to join the celebration is first baseman Annie Berg. Below, Emily Hair is congratulated by coach Jon Blanchard after hitting a two-run home run. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
In light of the developments at the Olean Middle School on a beautiful June afternoon, one can only imagine what goodies the teenagers might receive later this week when they make their third straight road trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four.
''We are very, very grateful for each other,'' Blanchard said after the Bears made surprisingly easy work of top-ranked and previously unbeaten Keshequa, 8-1. ''You can see that with the players and what they have going.''
Senior Sam Mott tossed a six-hitter, struck out six and helped her own cause with two hits; junior Emily Hair had two hits, including a two-run home run; and senior McKenzie Cass added a pair of hits and scored twice to send Frewsburg (18-5) into the state semifinals at 9 a.m., Saturday at the Adirondack Sports Complex against a team to be determined.
''This year we're just trying to play one game at a time and, hopefully, we can win our next game,'' Mott said. ''Really, that's what we're trying to do.''
If the Bears play anything like they did against the Section 5 champions (21-1), a berth in the state title game - a place the Frewsburg softball program has never been - is a very real possibility.
The Bears scored three runs in the fourth inning and five more in the sixth, using a combination of power and small-ball that the Lady Indians were unable to match.
Mott drove in the first run in the fourth inning with an opposite-field double to left, plating Cass and, one out later - with eighth-grader Kaitlyn Blanchard pinch-running for Mott - Hair drilled a fastball over the fence in left field, giving Frewsburg a 3-0 lead. For Hair, the blast just continued her torrid hitting, which began last Saturday with her game-winning single against Cassadaga Valley in the Section 6 championship contest.
''I would do anything to keep playing with these girls, because I've been playing with them since I was 8 and I don't want to lose them,'' Hair said.
The three runs turned out to be enough for Mott, who was the beneficiary of a strong defense turned two double plays.
''When balls were put in play, I had complete faith in my defense that they were going to stop it,'' Mott said. '' ... It just feels good to take down the number-one team in the state.''
The Lady Indians ended Mott's shutout bid in the top of the sixth when they scored an unearned run following an RBI single by Grace Mehlenbacher. But the Bears put the game away against losing pitcher Alex Flint with five runs in the bottom half of the inning. Highlighting the rally were senior Reyanne Strong's two-run single, a couple of nifty bunts by Mott and senior Bethany Steele and a pair of bases-loaded walks to senior Alanna Blanchard and junior Karlee Foti.
''It's hard for a team that hasn't lost,'' Blanchard said. ''We've known adversity, we've been beaten up, we've seen pitching that we don't touch ... but in the heat of the moment, it doesn't matter. It has to do with momentum, chemistry and what has happened between each and every pitch and each and every inning.''
Frewsburg has found a way each of the last three seasons.
Now it's on to the North Country, a place the Bears lost to Greene, 3-2, in the 2012 semifinals.
''We're going to go in and do the same thing we did last year, which is to go in and have as much fun as we can, play as hard as we can and we're going to enjoy each other,'' Blanchard said.