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Co-Aces Simon, Hoeflich Lead Iroquois Softball Back to Sectional Championship Game

For the Iroquois softball team, two aces have proven to be just as good as one.

After reaching the state championship game for the first time in program history last spring, the Chiefs were faced with the task of replacing All-Western New York pitcher Brooke Plonka.  Filling her shoes seemed like a tall task to ask of any one girl – so the Chiefs are doing it with two.

Seniors Madison Hoeflich and Olivia Simon have shared the load in the pitching circle for the Chiefs who are back in the Class A-2 Section VI championship game.

“I love it,” Hoeflich said after picking up the win in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Starpoint in a semifinal game played at Depew. “I feel like we’re a puzzle piece together because we have very different pitching styles. It definitely throws the batters off.”

And if anyone has any concern of jealously or animosity between two girls sharing one position, forget that. Simon and Hoeflich are the best of friends and plan to dorm together next school year at Oswego State College.

“I think it works perfectly,” Simon said. “She’s my best friend and we’re just a dynamic duo.”

But first they plan on leading the championship chase for the Chiefs by sharing the center of the stage.

Hoeflich got the win with four strong innings, limiting the Spartans to one run and four hits. She struck out one and got seven ground ball outs, including a double play.

Simon then brought the heat, striking out eight in her three scoreless innings.

“They have two pitchers that throw strikes and they’re completely different pitchers,” said Starpoint coach Joe Hill, who has successfully employed the two-pitcher system with the Spartans in recent seasons. “The first girl, I wouldn’t call her a junk-baller but she definitely throws a lot more offspeed where then Simon girl comes in and throws hard. As a hitter, it doesn’t matter if you’re prepared, you’re adjusted to one speed for the first at-bat. It’s a good philosophy to use.”

The win advanced the top-seeded Chiefs (19-2) to the A-2 championship game against second-seeded Lewiston-Porter, set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Williamsville East High School. And it doesn’t matter who gets the win and who gets the saves, both pitchers are all about keeping that championship trophy in Elma.

“It’s not about them it’s about where we want to get,” Chiefs coach Aaron Vanderlip said. “They know that and that’s what’s great about this team. They all just want to win and not worry about personal stuff.”

Iroquois took a first-inning lead against Starpoint as Kennedy Haberl led off with a single, stole second, and came around to score on an error. The Chiefs had just one more hit the rest of the way, a single by junior Rachel Yax that was a part of a three-run inning that put Iroquois ahead to stay. Mya Braun and Simon also came in to score in the inning. Two walks and an error helped the inning along.

For Starpoint, junior Jaclyn Stickney limited the high-powered Chiefs to just two hits over six innings.

Junior Alexis Briggs scored the Spartans’ lone run in the fourth as she singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by sophomore Tori Angelo.

“We knew they were going to be a very good team,” Vanderlip said. “They’re always prepared and they always play a good game of softball. We had to take care of business to get to where we want to be.”

And where the Chiefs want to be is back in the Class A championship game.

The biggest of many reasons Iroquois got that far was the pitching performance of Plonka, who is now doing her thing at Division I Dartmouth College. This postseason, the current pitchers are doing what they can to do, as Hoeflich put it, “fill the footsteps of Brooke.”

“One and two,” Simon added, motioning towards Hoeflich. “Together we can add up to be as good as her.”

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