BROCKPORT - They had them right where they wanted them.
After one inning, the Pine Valley Lady Panthers held a 5-2 lead over the Arkport Lady Blue Jays.
But as the game progressed, Arkport chipped away at the lead, pulled ahead in the third inning and held on for a 6-5 victory in Friday's Class D softball Far West Regional matchup at Brockport State.
"This is the best team we have played," Pine Valley coach Mark Mansfield said. "I was hoping we would get a few more runs after the first inning. They made a lot of defensive plays. We hit the ball real hard. They don't have a weak bat in their lineup. They put a lot of pressure on us defensively and we made some mistakes which cost us some runs. They were hard hit balls and that was the best hitting team we have seen. To get out of here 6-5, I am pretty happy. We just couldn't string together any hits later on."
Entering Friday's contest, Mansfield said getting runs early would be a key to victory. And that's exactly what the Lady Panthers did.
After spotting the Lady Blue Jays a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Pine Valley answered with five runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Jessica Wilcox led off with a single and Kayla Mansfield reached on an error. Then the two-out rally began.
Cassie Tingue plated both runners with a two-RBI double and Laural Killock followed with a single to score Tingue.
With three runs already across, Jamie Wilcox launched a two-run home run to left center to give Pine Valley a 5-2 lead after one inning.
Arkport cut into the lead in the second inning when Lauren Wyant singled and later scored on an error to bring the score to 5-3.
The Lady Blue Jays struck again in the third when Jessica Wilcox started the inning by hitting the first two batters. Karlee Patrick followed by grounding back to the pitcher, but the throw to first base got away and allowed the two runners to score, tying the game.
Wyant's infield single plated the third run of the inning and gave Arkport a 6-5 lead, which they held onto for the final four innings.
"Unfortunately we did not play our best game today," Pine Valle co-coach Danielle Arnone said. "Our fielding errors definitely hurt us. We have been fielding well, so unfortunately, that was disappointing. We were hitting well and that was the part I was most worried about (Friday). Arkport had a lot of nice defensive plays. It didn't go our way, but the best team wins, and (Friday), we did not play the best."
Arkport pitcher Sidney Sarvis silenced the Lady Panther bats after the first inning, as Pine Valley managed only four hits the rest of the way, with only one runner reaching scoring position.
Sarvis finished with a complete-game victory, allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking none.
Jessica Wilcox took the loss on four hits while striking out six, walking three and hitting two batters.
"You look back at this and what she did the last three innings, it shows how much she is growing," Mansfield said of Jessica Wilcox. "She is only a 10th grader. The mental side of pitching, she is still pitching through it. She did a real nice job and got some fly balls. They did not hit her hard in the last three innings. She took a step forward there.
"She needed help from the defense early on and she hit some batters," Mansfield added. "Maybe that was nerves there, but she came right back. I expected that out of her. She was throwing harder at the end of the game than the first three innings."
Jessica Wilcox also added two hits and a run scored. Tingue finished with a double and two RBIs while Jamie Wilcox had a home run and two RBIs.
Courtney McDaniel scored two runs and singled for Arkport to lead the Lady Blue Jays while Nichole Gibson doubled, walked and scored a run in the win.
With the win, Arkport advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four in South Glens Falls beginning June 14.
"Mark (Mansfield) and I have been coaching together for five years now," Arnone said. "That group has been with us the entire time now. They have grown immensely - mentally, physically and talent wise. They are a great group and anyone would be quite blessed to coach them. I feel privileged. It's sad to see it end."