Ballston Spa and Niskayuna are both young teams with new head coaches, trying to find their identities as they begin the Suburban Council softball season.
Niskayuna won Wednesday’s meeting between the Suburban Council North rivals, 7-5, with freshman Stacey Gordon singling home two runs in the home sixth. The result left both teams 1-1, a start that pleased both coaches.
“We’ve switched some positions around, revamped the practices,” said Jules Paul, Niskayuna’s third head coach in as many seasons. “At first, it took some getting used to, but they seem to be settling in. Today was indicative of what we’ve been doing in practice.”
Niskayuna took leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before the Scotties scored three runs in the top of the fifth to get their only lead of the game, 5-4.
Winning pitcher Devon Dare singled in the tying run in the bottom of the fifth, and Gordon smoked a one-out single through the middle of a drawn-in infield to score Hannah Conklin and catcher Abby Coyne, who had doubled, in the home sixth.
“We’re young,” said Paul, who started two of his three seniors. “We moved a couple of kids up. Stacey Gordon was one of them. We couldn’t let her bat go. She had to be on varsity.”
First-year Ballston Spa coach Sam Fitzgerald, whose teams at Schuylerville were always competitive in the Wasaren League and sectionals, is getting his first look as the best league in Section II.
“I’m not displeased with the way we played today,” he said. “We misplayed four fly balls, that I wasn’t happy with. That cost us four runs.
“But we came back three times to take the lead or tie the game. That’s good. That’s what I’m looking for.”
After Rachel LeBarron’s two-run single gave her team its 5-4 lead, Dare retired seven of the next nine Scotties, getting a pop out and her ninth and 10th strikeouts to end the game after Scotties’ cleanup hitter Alicia Crandall led of the top of the seventh with a single.
Dare is one of the Silver Warrior seniors back from a 9-7 SC season and second-round loss in the 2011 Class AA tournament.
“She really did come through,” said Paul, whose team had 11 hits two days after a season-opening 10-2 loss to Shenendehowa where the Silver Warriors managed just four hits.
Sophomore Ali Frary had an RBI double in the first inning and scored on junior Gina Grant’s single as Niskayuna took a 2-0 lead. Rachel LeBarron got that back with an RBI single in the visitors’ second, and Mikayla Simek’s sacrifice fly tied the game in the third.
Jacqui O’Brien and Frary had run-producing hits in the fourth as Niskayuna went up, 4-2.
Mikayla Simek’s two-out double started Ballston Spa’s sixth-inning rally, which Rachel LeBarron capped with an opposite-field single sliced into right field.
Simek and Crandall are two of the players Fitzgerald is counting on this season, as well as pitcher Abby LeBarron, who threw a three-hitter in Ballston Spa’s 3-0 win over Shaker on Monday.
“Shaker was a big win for the girls,” sad Fitzgerald. “We scored six against a pitcher who beat them twice last year.”
Both coaches have moved players around as they try to put their best teams on the field.
“Abby didn’t throw a lot last year, and A.C. [Crandall] played first last year,” said Fitzgerald. “I told the girls I’ll move them around every game, so everybody has got to know my system.”
“It’s been really tough learning to take the new positions, but the girls have been so open to it,” said Paul. “That’s our philosophy, be open to anything for the team.
“We’re preaching fundamentals, as if we can do that, we’re good.”
“We’re learning. It’s a whole new system,” said Fitzgerald, who played seven juniors and four 10th graders against Niskayuna. “ They want to play. They’re getting it. We’re just trying to get them to believe. It’s coming.
“We made mistakes, but you learn from them. We’ll learn as we go.”
Ballston Spa 011 030 0 — 5 7 1
Niskayuna 200 212 x — 7 11 1
A. LeBarron and Crandall; Dare and Coyne.