By Jay Young
Jessica Wilcox led the second-seeded Pine Valley Lady Panthers (16-1) to their second consecutive Section 6 Class D softball title on Tuesday afternoon as she tossed a 2-0 no-hit win over fourth-seeded Brocton (7-9) at the Martin Road Sports Complex.
Jessica Wilcox of Pine Valley shows her no-hit form in a Section 6 Class D softball title game win over Brocton on Tuesday.
Photo by Lisa Monacelli
The victory marked the second no-hitter in the past three games for the sophomore hurler, who has been brilliant so far this postseason.
"All the players have worked so hard, and they just don't want to be done yet," said Wilcox after the win. ''I couldn't do without my team, they are so good to have behind me. I'm definitely proud of them, they have worked so hard to get here.'''
After pulling off an impressive upset against No. 1 Panama to make its way to the title game, Brocton had a difficult time mustering offense against Wilcox's flawless pitching.
"It was just a matter of pitching today and their pitcher,'' said Lady Bulldogs coach Jeff Franze. ''She was so sharp today-overpowering. We haven't seen that type of pitching all year long. I thought we would get a couple of runs, but we knew that we had to keep the score down and we did that.''
He added, "I thought our pitcher, Jessica Putcher, pitched a great game. We made a few errors today but it was a well-played softball game.''
Putcher did her best to keep the game close, fanning five and walking one in seven innings of work. But Wilcox countered with 13 strikeouts of her own to go along with one walk.
"I would say the last three or four games, (Jessica) has just been getting more and more confident,'' said Pine Valley coach Mark Mansfield. ''I don't know how many she walked tonight, maybe one. She's gotten over that hurdle. She's throwing with a lot of confidence, her and her catcher (Aleah Fancher) are working really good together now and it is a great time of the year to have that happening. The last few games she has been absolutely dominating."
The Lady Panthers' offense was able to get their bats going in the bottom of the third inning when Wilcox helped her own cause with a lead-off double. The pitcher was then replaced by a courtesy runner, who was chased home with an RBI single off the bat of Kaitlyn Hoth.
Brocton nearly fell into a 2-0 hole when Alex Bentham struck a single, but Putcher was able to get the Lady Bulldogs out of trouble before any more damage was done.
The second and final run for the Lady Panthers came two innings later when Hoth notched a base hit and then scored thanks to a hard-hit triple from Cassandra Tingue.
After falling into a 2-0 hole, it looked like Putcher was about to relinquish more runs in the sixth when Jessica Pillard and Wilcox started the inning with base hits. That brought Franze to the circle and after the visit, Putcher was able to compose herself and get Brocton out of the jam.
With a narrow lead in hand, Wilcox stepped into the circle in the top of the seventh and promptly fanned three Lady Bulldogs to cap off her no-hit shutout.
While Tuesday's victory hinged on Pine Valley's stellar pitching, Mansfield would like to see more offense from his team moving forward.
"We need to get some more hits, they like to make me nervous. Now I know I'm going to get (a game) out of my pitcher, my defense is pretty solid,'' he said. ''We need to score more runs. We need more consistently to hit the ball hard and make them make plays all game long, so that's what we need to work on.''
The Lady Panthers move on to face Section 5 champion Arkport Central in the Far West Regionals on Friday at Brockport State at 5 p.m.