After a late-inning hit during last week’s Class AA regional championship softball game in Malta, Ballston Spa second baseman Lauren Kersch ran over to her team’s pitcher.
“Take a deep breath,” she told big sister Ashlyn Kersch. “Go pitch by pitch.”
Ashlyn Kersch, Ballston Spa’s senior star, quickly returned to mowing through Liverpool batters on her way to a shutout. She didn’t necessarily need the words of encouragement from her sister, an eighth-grader, but she’s also grown used to constant visits from Lauren Kersch in the sisters’ first year ever playing together.
“She always comes over,” a laughing Ashlyn Kersch said of her sibling. “Sometimes, it’s for no reason, really. . . . But it’s special when it’s her that comes over. It always gives me that extra push.”
Throughout the 2015-16 school year, championship-winning teams from Section II have included siblings. That’s seemingly always a staple at the small-school levels, but not so much in large-school competition. This year, though, has seen a number of teams win large-school area championships with siblings on their rosters, from Amsterdam football with the Stanavich brothers (senior Bryan and junior Dale) to Shenendehowa baseball with the Anderson twins (senior battery Ian Anderson and Ben Anderson) to name just a couple.
“When you talk about team chemistry, those two [brothers] are the bedrock of our team,” said Shenendehowa baseball head coach Greg Christodulu, whose team’s senior right fielder Richard Drum previously had an older brother come through the Plainsmen program. “We’ve got some good families sending us players, guys that can compete at a high level.”
Ballston Spa’s softball squad is unique in that it has both the Kersch sisters and the McMahon sisters — senior left fielder Katie and freshman catcher Megan — within its everyday starting lineup. The pair of sisters has helped give the Scotties (18-4) the firepower they needed to capture their program’s first Section II softball title and advance to Saturday morning’s state semifinals, where Ballston Spa will play Orchard Park (Section VI, 17-8) at Moreau Recreational Park with the chance to qualify for that afternoon’s championship game.
“That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield said. “It doesn’t come often to have two sets of sisters like this.”
For the Scotties, the Kersch sisters had never played together in the past, while the McMahons had occasionally teamed up at the youth level. Both younger sisters have talked this postseason about how much it has meant to them to get the chance to help their older sisters experience such a tremendous close to their high school careers.
“It’s been so much fun,” Megan McMahon said. “I’d only gotten to play with my sister once or twice in the past, so to be able to do this with her in her senior year is such a great feeling.”
Shenendehowa boys’ lacrosse head coach Jason Gifford said there’s something to the idea of family pride helping a younger sibling to compete at the varsity level. His squad won the Section Class A championship this year with a pair of Rainville brothers, senior Dakota and sophomore Hunter. The older brother’s presence, Gifford said, gave the younger brother a built-in role model to follow on the field and — more importantly — in the offseason.
“The influence of his [older] brother on him was getting him to lifting, getting him working hard, getting him around the game a lot,” Gifford said.
On the field, relationships from home carry over. While she trusts all of her Ballston Spa teammates, Ashlyn Kersch said her little sister at second base is always where she wants the balls hit hardest off her to go.
“I always know she has my back,” Ashlyn Kersch said. “When there’s a [hard-hit ball], I know she’s the one that will dive or do whatever it takes to get it because she loves me and wants me to do well.”
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports