Niagara Gazette — There are no surprises when it comes to Niagara-Wheatfield softball.
The Falcons have been perennial contenders in the Niagara Frontier League, a model for consistency for Niagara County since their sudden run to the state semifinals in 2010.
Twice they have returned to the sectional Class AA semifinals since the championship, falling to state powerhouse Clarence two years running.
As some of the region’s most talented players have walked across the stage at Niagara-Wheatfield over the years, waiting in the JV cupboard has been a continuous crop of next-generation Falcons ready to replenish the ranks and maintain the high standard.
For Jim and Melanie Proefrock, the team’s tandem coaches, there isn’t much the Falcons could accomplish that would come as a shock, even though this year’s edition returned without six of its seniors from a year ago.
“I told the girls before the season started: if we win, it’s because we’re going to play together,” said Jim Proefrock, entering his fourth season as coach. “This is a great program. We don’t really rebuild, we just keep reloading. We lost our core (from the state semifinal team), but we’re going to have strong pitching and senior leadership. … And a seventh grader will be hitting second in our lineup.”
Well, maybe there will be some surprises.
Mackenzie Frank is a 5-foot-6 seventh-grader who will start at first base and hit second for a Falcons team that generally shies away from rostering middle schoolers because of a deep talent pool.
But the Proefrocks couldn’t resist the raw talent and potential that Frank adds to the lineup. She is 8-for-12 through her first few games, including a 2-for-4 day in her first league game, where she also had a double and scored three runs.