It’s now been more than a calendar year since Lancaster High School lost a varsity softball game. Twenty-one straight wins have come since May 23, 2016, when the top-seeded Legends were upset in the Class AA Section VI quarterfinals by No. 8-seed Niagara Falls.
Exactly one year later, the Wolverines returned to Lancaster as the No. 9 seed in the Class AA bracket with thoughts of another upset on their minds. The Legends were having none of that – getting on the Falls early and often in a 10-1 win on Tuesday afternoon.
“We sat on that for a year,” Legends coach Kelly Ambrose said. “That was our last loss and we talked about that going in. Instead of trying to ignore last year we said, ‘You know what? You don’t always get a second chance at things. Today we get a second chance so let’s go out there and make things right.’ And I think we did that.”
Since that gloomy Monday afternoon, Lancaster has completed a perfect regular season, repeated as ECIC I champion and has earned the No. 1 ranking in New York State. But these days, the Legends are focused on erasing the memories of recent postseason heartbreak. In each of the last two years, Lancaster dropped a sectional quarterfinal on its home field.
This year’s Legends are on a mission, seeking the program’s first sectional softball championship since 2003 and first undefeated sectional championship run since 1996.
That all showed just that in its postseason opener.
“It felt really good to beat them,” Lancaster junior centerfielder Madisyn Pepke said. “It just feels really incredible because we worked so well and we brought ourselves together. We knew what we had to get done in this game. We have high hopes for the weeks coming and we’re just going to keep rolling.”
The next step comes at 4:45 p.m. Thursday as ECIC I rival Williamsville North comes to town for a sectional semifinal. The Spartans put up a fight against the Legends in the regular season, dropping competitive 4-2 and 9-5 ballgames.
But that’s life taking on the best large school programs in the area. Lancaster has experienced that the hard way in recent seasons – this year, the Legends are ready to shine – no matter the scenario.
“It’s going to be tough but I think we can push through it,” said Lancaster shortstop Kara Paradowski, the team captain in her fifth season as a varsity starter. “If we just keep our minds focused on what’s important then we can get through it. I think the big thing is how we all work well together and how we can always get out of a slump if we need it.”
Paradowski – who is headed to Canisius College next season – and Pepke headline a deep offensive attack that also features the likes of Tina Stasiuk, Samantha Moll, co-captain Frankie Walker and many more.
Senior Kiley Martz was strong again in the pitching circle for the Legends.
All of that has led to a memorable season that appears to have many more memories to come. The Legends have truly been “The Greatest Show On Dirt” in 2017 – and they’re not going to stop any time soon.
“It’s their leadership and their refusal to quit,” Ambrose said. “Even when it’s tight or we’re down early, you can hear them in the dugout motivating each other and refusing to lose. They have that quality about them that they’re not going to give up and they’re not going to settle for anything less than a victory.”