Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — CHEEKTOWAGA — When the final pitch of Wilson’s softball season popped up and sank from the sky into the mitt of John F. Kennedy’s ace pitcher waiting beneath it, Lindsay Bryer’s eyes swelled with tears.
As the only senior on the young Lakewomen squad, the emotions Bryer felt were different from her teammate’s as they stood together, still clinging to the dugout fence where they had been holding out hope for a late-inning rally just moments before.
It was the end of Bryer’s four-year career as varsity ace, and the end of a trying season filled with injuries that limited her to a handful of games.
The thud of the final out brought it all to the surface.
Freshman Kelly Secor’s pop out to the pitcher sealed No. 7 JFK’s 2-1 victory over the 10th-seeded Lakewomen in a Class B-2 pre-quarterfinal matchup Saturday at John F. Kennedy High School.
As Bryer released the chain links, she turned to embrace her half-sister, Ana, for one last hug as teammates, tears smudging her eye-black.
She then turned to her parents, and finally coach Maureen Mahar, all beaming with pride despite the loss. They understood the significance of Bryer’s accomplishment, pitching in the game three weeks after an ankle injury left her on the sidelines, her final season in question.
“It was a struggle,” Bryer said. “I was the starting pitcher and I lost my position because I got hurt … but I was determined to come back before sectionals. I told myself that I was going to pitch in this game today and I did. I was just very happy that I got to do that and pitch for my team.”
Bryer pitched all seven innings and struck out eight batters, allowing six hits. Her two earned runs came in the first and second innings, each scored by runners who reached base via walk.
The difference in the game was Bryer’s counterpart, Bears senior pitcher Kayla Williams, a two-time ECIC IV all-star, who was just a hair better while allowing four hits with six strikeouts. Wilson’s only run came in the second inning when sophomore Sam Ess scored on a pass ball.
It appeared the Lakewomen were on the verge of a rally to tie the game in the top of the sixth. With no outs, junior Alissa DiCesare knocked a triple through the left fielder’s legs, but the field umpire ruled DiCesare skipped second base. Wilson didn’t put a runner on base after that.
Ess went 1 for 2 with a walk and stolen base. All four Lakewomen hits came from their 3-4-5-6 hitters.
Bryer earned the hard-luck loss.
“I’m proud of (Bryer). Every pitch she threw this season came with pain and she still just found a way to battle through,” Mahar said. “When I say that every pitch came with pain, it did. Every single pitch that she made this year came with pain. And she still battled through and battled through.”
Bryer finishes her career with a bundle of accolades as she departs to play volleyball at SUNY Canton. Most notably, she holds the Wilson all-time strikeout record with 426 over her career, and broke the single-season mark last year with 172.
“Lindsay’s the real deal,” Mahar said. “She serves to inspire girls who will come through this program from a long time after she’s gone. She’s on the verge of legendary territory. I’m pretty proud of that girl.”Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.