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Niagara Falls' Holly Conte throws a pitch during a Niagara Frontier League softball game Thursday at North Tonawanda. NT won, 4-3.

Niagara Falls was on its way to continuing its good play from South Carolina with an opening day Niagara Frontier League win at North Tonawanda, until the fourth inning.

Ahead 3-0 going into the bottom of the frame, Niagara Falls (3-3 overall, 0-1 NFL) gave up four hits on two errors, sparking NT’s comeback to tie the game at 3-3. The Lady Jacks took the lead for good in the fifth, when Joanna Fretthold led off the inning with a triple. A clutch two-out single by Natalie Hils gave NT (3-0, 1-0) its first lead of the game at 4-3, and the Lady Jacks held for the win by the same score.

The fourth inning rally by NT was due in large part to some missed execution in the field by the Falls on short infield dribblers.

With Fretthold on third after a passed ball, hits by Shaina Bunker and Lauren Lipinoga traveled only as far as pitcher Holly Conte, who both times fielded the ball and wanted to throw to third, but no one was covering the base.

Then with the bases loaded, Hils’ ground ball to short stop Meg Golden was thrown to the backstop and out of play, allowing Fretthold and Bunker to score, closing the gap to 3-2. NT would score again three batters later on an error when Gemma Butry fumbled her ground ball at third base, allowing Lipinoga to tie the game. “They froze us and we didn’t make the plays. We knew what we were supposed to do but we didn’t execute,” Falls coach Beth Bullock said about the fourth inning.

North Tonawanda’s defense was just as shaky in the first inning when pitcher Allie Gibson and third basewoman Taylor Akins collided on an infield popup on the pitchers circle keeping the inning alive. The next batter, Golden, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, smacked a triple scoring Nikki Craft and Conte to give Falls the early 2-0 lead.

North Tonawanda’s defense and pitcher Gibson would settle down in the fourth inning though, getting out of a bases loaded, one-out jam. NT would not give up a base runner in the sixth or seventh inning, thanks to good fielding plays by Fretthold, who also went 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored on offense, and a good stretch at first by Amanda Mislin.

Gibson pitched a complete game, giving up three runs on nine hits, five strikeouts with no walks. “She didn’t give up a walk and I thought that was key,” NT coach T.K. Murphy said. “If they’re going to get on base, make them earn it.”

Conte pitched admirably for the Falls, tossing a complete game as well, giving up four runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and no walks, but timely mistakes made the difference in the end for the Wolverines.

“You can’t give a team like that six outs and expect to win against a quality team in the NFL,” Bullock said.

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