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Kelly Leads Kenmore East Softball to Victory

That Bulldog pride is back and in a big way.

Samantha Kelly was 2 for 5 and Gabi Vasi went the distance as Kenmore East beat Grand Island, 9-6, in Niagara Frontier League softball action on Wednesday afternoon.

Kelly broke up a 6-6 tie in the top of the sixth when she crushed a triple to right field that put her team up 8-6. The inning was huge for the Bulldogs as they earned three of their runs with two outs on the board.

“I was up to bat, I knew we had two outs. I thought I really have to pull through…my team needs me,” Kelly said. “Right when I hit it I thought ‘oh gosh, that felt good.'”

The win lifted the Lady Bulldogs to 6-8 in league play. While that record doesn’t have them in the mix for the league title, it represents the strides forward that they have taken this season. Slowly but surely the Lady Bulldogs have cultivated the kind of winning attitude the program has not seen in years.

“I feel like a lot of outside people were like ‘you guys aren’t going to be good this year. You guys lost certain players,'” Kelly said. “The first day, we came into the gym we worked hard. Now we’re here and we’ve won more games [this year] than we have in eight years and we proved everyone wrong. We worked hard to get here.”

First year head coach Bryan Burhans said the senior leaders – Kelly, Jaclyn MacVittie, and Kasey Denny – have done an exceptional job of guiding the younger girls.

Proof of the Bulldogs improved confidence was evident when they didn’t let this game slip away. East jumped to a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning, but they didn’t fold even after the Vikings fought their way back with four runs of their own in the bottom of the second.

“That’s their mentality now because we’ve been in some close ones and we’ve pulled it out,” Burhans said. “Years past, since I’ve been involved, when Grand Island took the lead in the fifth inning we might have folded. This year they’ve dug right in.”

Camryn Smith scored twice for the Bulldogs while Brianna Malkiewicz drove in two runs. Right fielder Lehla Fisher had three huge put outs, two of them coming in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Though her team fell to 5-7 in league, Grand Island coach Cheryl O’Connor was extremely happy with the battle her young team showed.

“We are coming out of losing seven of our nine starters from last season,” O’Connor said. “It is a learning year. They’re getting their reps at the varsity level. I’ve got girls starting that have never played in a varsity game before. We lost our entire outfield and most of our infield to graduation. The young girls are getting their reps and every day I’m seeing improvement.”

Camryn Smith scored twice for the Bulldogs while Brianna Malkiewicz drove in two runs. Right fielder Lehla Fisher had three huge put outs-two of them coming in the bottom of the seventh. Makayla Montes scored twice for Grand Island.

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