Ballston Spa senior pitcher Ashlyn Kersch did an outstanding job of checking her emotions until she answered all the media questions while standing in the home dugout. Then, suddenly, she just couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Her team’s magical season was over, washed away in an instant.
Although Kersch played a huge role in keeping her team in the game despite steady rain all morning, Orchard Park squeezed out a run in the bottom of the seventh on designated player Alex Sheehy’s one-out, walk-off single to right field, as the Quakers slipped past the Scotties 4-3 in the Class AA semifinals of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Softball Championships Saturday at Moreau Recreational Park.
Ballston Spa (18-5) was playing in its first-ever state tournament after securing the program’s inaugural Section II title, and the Scotties definitely looked liked they belonged. Kersch not only pitched effectively, but she also helped the Scotties rally from a 3-1 deficit by ripping a two-run double to tie the score at 3-3 in the top of the sixth.
“That double felt great,” she said. “After lining back to the pitcher my last two at-bats, I really wanted that hit badly.”
But Orchard Park, of Section VI, capitalized on its final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. Sophomore second baseman Lillian Wozniak walked and advanced all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior third baseman Lydia Petricca. Wozniak simply just kept running past second base in the sloppy conditions, and she easily beat the throw from Ballston Spa first baseman Sarah Pritchard.
That set the stage for Sheehy, who lined the ball to right for the game-winner.
“We never thought we would ever get this far. I’m just so happy we got here,” said Kersch, part of two sets of sisters on the team. “It hasn’t really sunk in what just happened. It all happened so quickly. This has been such a great season for us.”
Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield was disappointed in the outcome, but not in the effort.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more from this group,” she said. “It will be tough to see our seniors leave, but this has been an incredible run that we had. In fact, it’s been incredible to see where this team has come. They’ve battled back all season.”
Freshman catcher Megan McMahon, whose older sister, Katie, plays left field, put the loss in perspective. “To get this far, I’m so happy,” she said. “We’ve all had a great year. I still can’t believe it. To play all season with my sister on a team like this was just fantastic. It’s definitely been a dream season for us.”
The Scotties scored first. Ashlyn Kersch, the leadoff hitter, ripped a single to left and stole second. She scored when her sister, eighth-grader Lauren Kersch, bunted toward Orchard Park starting pitcher Sam Frappa, who made an errant throw to first.
The Quakers knotted the score in the third when sophomore shortstop Lauren Miller singled to center and eventually came home on a grounder to short by Wozniak.
Orchard Park took the lead in the fourth on a walk by Peyton Hillis and a double to left by left fielder Katie Luchowski. The Quakers then stretched their lead to 3-1 on singles from Maddie Stewart, Petricca and Sheehy in the fifth inning.
Although the rain created sloppy conditions, Megan McMahon said it was playable, and she didn’t want to make any excuses. “I couldn’t see the ball that well sometimes from behind the plate, but I think Ashlyn still had a good grip on the ball,” she said.
Ballston Spa 100 002 0 — 3 8 1
Orchard Park 001 110 1 — 4 8 2
A. Kersch and M. McMahon; Frappa, Lis (5) and Raymond.
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Categories: High School Sports, News, Sports