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Sunday, June 23, 2019: All-state softball selections announced

   Leading off today: Four of the six New York softball players of the year are repeat selections from a year ago, the New York State Sportswriters and Coaches Organization for Girls Sports announced Saturday.

   Heading the list is Deposit pitcher Makenzie Stiles, selected the Class D player of the year for the fifth consecutive season.

   Pitchers Laura Bennett of Corning (Class AA), Bella Willsey of Elmira Heights Edison (Class C) and Stiles are all seniors, as is catcher Lauren Rende of Ardsley (Class B).

   The first-time honorees are Class A co-players of the year Lauren Kersch, a junior pitcher for Ballston Spa, and Summer Clark, a sophomore pitcher for Williamsville East.

   Stiles was recently named Gatorade's New York player of the year. Stiles threw a one-hitter and struck out 16 in the NYSPHSAA Class D championship game vs. Alfred-Almond to cap a brilliant career. She was She went 106-11 with 1,507 strikeouts, 27 no-hitters and 16 perfect games in helping the Lumberjacks to four New York State Public High School Athletic Association titles in five seasons.

   Corning's Bennett led Corning to its first state title in the sport, which came in a 4-3, 11-inning victory over Cicero-North Syracuse. She allowed 20 runs over the Hawks' final 13 games.

   Kersch has already made her reputation long before the final day of the season in which she threw 190 pitches and struck out 18 batters in a 2-1 win over Sayville in 20 innings -- she was perfect through 11 innings -- in the Class A semifinals. She threw 84 more pitches in a 3-0 loss to Williamsville East in the final later in the day.


   Clark went 15-0 with a 0.40 ERA and 141 strikeouts, holding opposing batters to a .167 average, for the state champions. She marked her 16th birthday by throwing a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts to bear Walter Panas in the semifinals and a two-hitter with nine strikeouts against Ballston Spa.

   Rende batted .588 with 12 home runs, 63 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases. She also picked off 16 runners to wrap up a career in which she homered 40 times and hit .623.

   Willsey ended her career with seven straight shutouts, covering 48 innings. Her five-inning no-hitter in the state semifinals vs. St. Lawrence included 14 strikeouts and she threw a four-hitter in a 10-0 win against Warsaw in the title game.

   We've posted the full all-state team in the site's reference section.

   On the big stage: Ursuline's Sonia Citron was selected to the all-tournament team after the United State defeated Canada 87-37 for the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Puerto Aysen, Chile.

   Citron was second on the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game as the United States went 6-0. She shot 58.6 percent from the field, led the team with 19 steals and handed out 11 assists.


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  •    Williamsville South's Amari DeBerry appeared in all six games and averaged 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds as the U.S. averaged 103 points per contest.

       Football commitment: University of Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi hauled in commitments from six rising seniors on Saturday, including Tottenville linebacker A.J. Roberts.

       Looking for answers: Some big names in Central New York wrestling gathered Friday to brainstorm ways to boost participation in the sport.

       Former Fulton coach Mike Conners, now at SUNY Oswego, emphasized the need to build relationships with athletes, their parents and the school's whole staff. It's a process that has to start before the students reach junior high.

       "You have to have someone in the middle school to catch kids," he said. "There are kids there. You have to get them. If you can't do it yourself, you need to find someone in that building to get those kids. Having a youth program is fantastic, but you've got to have a middle school program ... and have people transition them into our high school programs."

       Said current Fulton coach Jeff Waldron: "Our greatest opponent is no longer our cross-town dual meet rival. It's all the other activities wrestlers could be doing. It's other sports, sitting in front of electronics, working, getting in trouble, girlfriends or boyfriends. ... That's our biggest obstacle -- the other things kids can be doing. So if wrestling isn't fun, they're not going to do it."

       More reading: My weekly column for the Press & Sun-Bulletin looks back at some decisions made in the NYSPHSAA in the past school year that could have long-term implications.

       Progress: I spoke to the athletic director of the winning overall school last week. We'll be presenting the results of the 11th annual Kerr Cup All-Sport Championship on Thursday.

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