As she delivered her final pitch, Ballston Spa senior Ashlyn Kersch had to fight to keep her composure.
“I almost started crying,” she said. “But that’s OK.”
Yes, yes it is.
With a 7-3 win Friday against Shenendehowa in the Section II Class AA softball title game at the Luther Forest Athletic Fields, Ballston Spa clinched its program’s first-ever area championship. Before this season, Ballston Spa had never even finished as a runner-up.
“Our whole goal was to get here and do as well as we possibly could,” said Scotties sophomore third baseman Grace Thompson, who made the catch to record the game’s final out. “That’s what we did.”
In Friday’s other large-school championship game, Troy topped Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 2-0 in the Section II Class A title game.
For Ballston Spa, its win was about more than a high school first for its players. From pitcher Ashlyn Kersch down to her little sister Kersch, an eighth-grader who plays second base, nobody Friday could remember winning a softball championship at any level of play while competing for a Ballston Spa team.
“We’ve won nothing,” said Ashlyn Kersch, who struck out five Plainsmen and went 2-for-5 with two runs scored in support of herself. “This doesn’t happen for us. This is it.”
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Ballston Spa left fielder Katie McMahon, the team’s only other senior. “I’ve never been so excited and happy before. It just feels so good to win.”
Ballston Spa (No. 4, 17-4) led Shenendehowa (No. 3, 18-4) 2-1 through four innings. In the fifth inning, the Scotties rallied for five runs to give themselves breathing room.
That inning, Ballston Spa had eight consecutive batters reach base safely, at one point stringing together five straight RBI singles. For the game, the Scotties recorded 13 hits — all but one of which were singles.
“That’s all I wanted them to do,” Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield said of her team’s small-ball success.
“They [Ballston Spa] did a great job hitting the ball today. They were really attacking at the plate,” said Shenendehowa head coach Chris Farquharson, whose program won the area’s 2015 title. “[Shen pitchers] were hitting spots, and they were hitting the pitches.”
The Plainsmen answered back in their half of the inning. Senior first baseman Kelly Barkevich slugged a two-run home run, but Shenendehowa could not make up any more of its deficit.
“We knew we weren’t allowed to let them get the momentum,” said Ballston Spa sophomore first baseman Sarah Pritchard, whose squad had led Shenendehowa 4-0 in a regular-season game before losing 5-4.
Shenendehowa put two runners on base in its scoreless sixth inning before Ashlyn Kersch worked a clean final frame.
“They don’t give up,” Farquharson said of his team, which was ranked No. 1 in the state early this season.
After the game, the second-year varsity coach said his message to his senior-laden crew was one of thanks.
“I just let them know how proud I am, how privileged I am, to [have been] able to coach that group,” Farquharson said. “They’re a special group of kids.”
For the Plainsmen, Barkevich, shortstop Nicole McCarvill and right fielder Sadie
Evans all had multiple hits. Abby Shields took the loss, allowing seven runs in 4 1⁄3 innings.
Besides Ashlyn Kersch, Ballston Spa received multi-hit games from Lauren Kersch, catcher Megan McMahon and shortstop Angelina Stile. Every Ballston Spa player had at least one hit.
“We all came together,” Lauren Kersch said. “This is a great team.”
Fifield said she entered the 2016 season believing her squad could contend for a championship. Her players took a little while longer to get on board. Some admitted Friday their preseason expectation was the team would likely need to petition to play in sectionals, something teams need to do if they don’t win enough regular season games to automatically qualify for the postseason.
“But we had a great season and then we got into sectionals and we won, and we won — and now we’re here,”
Lauren Kersch said. “And it’s so awesome.”
Ballston Spa will play for a regional championship back at the Luther Forest fields on Friday.
RUN ENDS FOR SPARTANS
Sixth-seeded Burnt Hills’ quest for an unlikely championship ended with a 2-0 loss to No. 4 Troy. The Spartans were 5-11 in the Suburban Council this season, but won a pair of playoff games to qualify for Friday’s title game.
“They started believing in themselves,” Burnt Hills coach Gary Holtz said. “I told them from the beginning that if they believed in themselves as much as I believed in how good they could be [they could do well], and through the senior leadership of our two captains, Meghan Cullen and Brittany Ryan, everyone got on board and focused like crazy.”
Burnt Hills and Troy played five scoreless innings before Serifina French and Jill
Picarillo produced sixth-inning RBIs. Hunter Levesque went the distance for Troy, striking out 10 in her two-hit shutout.
Burnt Hills pitcher Morgan Skpowski allowed seven hits and had one strikeout.
Lauren Heffner scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning off a Hoosic Valley error, giving Ichabod Crane a 2-1 win in the Class B championship game.
Neither team scored until the 12th when Cierra Casale of Hoosic Valley (18-6) scored on a wild pitch. Ichabod Crane (21-6) responded in the bottom half as Calista Phippen scored on a suicide squeeze from Gabbie Cox before Heffner won it in the 13th.
Phippen struck out 17 and earned the win while Camille Coyne surrendered just one hit and struck out 11 for Hoosic Valley.
Greenville scored five runs in the first and never looked back, staving off a three-run rally in the seventh from Maple Hill to win the Section II Class C championship game 9-8.
Kayla Bailey tossed a no-hitter to lead Fort Ann (21-0) over Hartford 2-0 in the Class D championship game. Bailey struck out eight and finished her masterpiece with a three-pitch seventh inning.
Bailey Hasemann surrendered just one hit and struck out 10 for Hartford (14-7).
BALLSTON SPA 7, SHENENDEHOWA 3
Ballston Spa 101 050 0 — 7 13 4
Shenendehowa 100 020 0 — 3 9 0
A. Kersch and M. McMahon; Shields, Albanese (5) and Cuttita.
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE 0
Burnt Hills 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Troy 000 002 x — 2 7 1
Skpowski and VanEpps; Levesque and Rifenberick.
ICHABOD CRANE 2, HOOSIC VALLEY 1 (13)
Hoosic 000 000 000 001 0 — 1 2 1
Ichabod 000 000 000 001 1 — 2 1 1
Coyne and unavailable; Phippen and unavailable.
GREENVILLE 9, MAPLE HILL 8
Maple Hill 140 000 3 — 8 14 3
Greenville 500 310 x — 9 12 4
Houghtaling and unavailable; Fitzmaurice and unavailable.
FORT ANN 2, HARTFORD 0
Hartford 000 000 0 — 0 0 3
Fort Ann 000 101 x — 2 1 1
Hasemann and unavailable; Bailey and unavailable.
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Categories: High School Sports