Softball: Ballston Spa enters uncharted territory

In one dugout, there’s reigning Section II Class AA softball champion Shenendehowa, which is making
Pitcher Ashlyn Kersch is leading Ballston Spa into a game no Scotties team has ever played in before: A sectional final.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Pitcher Ashlyn Kersch is leading Ballston Spa into a game no Scotties team has ever played in before: A sectional final.

In one dugout, there’s reigning Section II Class AA softball champion Shenendehowa, which is making its 16th appearance in an area title game and seeking its 11th championship.

In the other one today at the Luther Forest Athletic Fields, there’s Ballston Spa. Never before a champion, never before even a runner-up.

It’s a mismatch on paper. It’s not expected to be one on the field.

“We know they’re for real,” Shenendehowa head coach Chris Farquharson said of the Scotties ahead of today’s 3 p.m. first pitch.

Ballston Spa (No. 4, 16-4) made Shenendehowa (No. 3, 18-3) take notice of itself earlier this month, when the Scotties had the Plainsmen on the ropes during a Suburban Council game. Ballston Spa led 4-0 through four innings back on May 6, only to see Shenendehowa rally to send the game into extras and win it on an RBI hit from shortstop Nicole McCarvill.

That loss stung fourth-year head coach Amanda Fifield and her crew. The Ballston Spa coach owns only one

career win against the Plainsmen — and it came when she was coaching at the junior varsity level. Despite that, she said, Shenendehowa is who she sees as her program’s biggest rival and its measuring stick.

“Everyone knows Shen. They’re the largest school,” said Fifield, whose school is the second-smallest in Class AA.

Shenendehowa entered the 2016 season with enormous expectations. Only one starter graduated from last year’s team and the Plainsmen registered at No. 1 in the opening state poll.

Meanwhile, Ballston Spa comes into today’s game with only two seniors and one junior on its 12-deep roster.

Senior pitcher Ashlyn Kersch is the team’s top star, but most of the support around her comes from the nine underclassmen — including her little sister Lauren, an eighth-grader who plays second base and hits in the heart of the Scotties’ lineup.

Though young and inex­perienced, Fifield said she knew her Scotties had a chance to be special this season. Ashlyn Kersch is one of the area’s top pitchers, and the underclassmen provide offensive pop, like sophomore first baseman Sarah Pritchard, who hit a grand slam in the quarter­finals.

“We felt from the beginning of this year that it was possible,” Fifield said of making a postseason run.

Against Ballston Spa, Far­quharson said his power-heavy lineup will need to play like it did against Columbia in a 6-2 win in the semifinals. That means working to manufacture runs, especially if the Scotties elect to continue the postseason trend of giving free passes to Shenendehowa’s slugging first baseman Kelly Barkevich, who has walked six times in two playoff games.

“So we need to create [scoring] opportunities,” Farquharson said. “We have to be able to put someone 60 feet closer to home plate.”

Off an impressive 8-0 win against Guilderland in the semifinals, Fifield said she does not expect the magnitude of today’s game to bother her players. They make up a tough-minded group, she said.

Farquharson has seen his players at this stage and watched them cruise to a shutout win in last year’s title game. But that edge in big-game experience, he said, won’t mean much once today’s action starts.

“It comes down to playing the game,” he said. “You can look for advantages, but what has to happen is you have to play the game.”

IN OTHER ACTION

Each of Section II’s other four classifications are also scheduled to decide champ­ions today in games starting at 3 p.m.

Most notably, sixth-seeded Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will challenge No. 4 Troy in the Class A title game. The Spartans entered the postseason after a 5-11 league season, but are now a win away from representing Section II in the state tournament.

No. 4 Hoosic Valley will take on No. 2 Ichabod Crane for the Class B championship, No. 1 Greenville will play No. 3 Maple Hill in the Class C game, and No. 1 Fort Ann and No. 2 Hartford tangle for the Class D championship.

Both the Class A and Class C games will be played at the Luther Forest Athletic Fields, while the Class B and Class D games will take place at Moreau Recreational Park.

Categories: High School Sports

Leave a Reply