Payback is too strong of a word to attach to a game where the bases and pitching rubber are pink, and the opposing coaches are friends who even coach basketball together.
But Schalmont was looking forward to Saturday’s non-league softball game against Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons after the Lady Knights won their Class B playoff meeting last spring. The Lady Sabres came out on the winning end Saturday, 2-1, when senior shortstop Emily McLaughlin drove in her second run of the game in the home seventh inning.
Junior Lauren Mahar threw a four-hitter and struck out 11 as the Lady Sabres bounced back from a tough 1-0 Colonial Council loss on Friday.
Saturday’s non-league game was a Coaches vs. Cancer event, with the teams raising over $1,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“Lauren wanted this one,” said Schalmont coach Eric Lybrand. “That sectional game left a bad taste in our mouth. When we drew up the schedule, the first thing Lauren asked was, ‘Are we getting to play Bishop Gibbons again?’ ”
The junior pitcher changed levels and speeds masterfully, and when the Lady Knights did make solid contact, the ball found a Schalmont fielder’s glove.
“The kids battled. We hit some line drives right at people,” said Bishop Gibbons co-coach Doug Holden. “Their pitcher pitched a solid game.”
“I’ve never been overpowering. I have to move the ball around and change speeds,” said Mahar, who followed the lead of catcher Angela Yodis in keeping the ND-BG hitters off-balance. “The off-speed pitches were working.”
“Lauren just wants the ball,” Lybrand said. “She’s a gamer. All I want her to do is lead this team, and she’s done that.”
McLaughlin singled home the game’s first run in the third inning. Leadoff hitter Erika Gogis bunted for a hit with one out, and she moved to third when Bishop Gibbons misplayed Danielle Motyka’s sacrifice bunt.
McLaughlin followed with a single off the glove of third baseman Anna Grace Maggs.
Bishop Gibbons got the run right back as Aiyana McIntyre dropped a two-out double over third base and just inside the foul line to score Maggs.
Both Mahar and Joelle Salisbury of the Lady Knights matched zeroes after that until the home seventh, when Tori VanAlstyne singled, and went to third on a throwing error. McLaughlin followed with an infield single that won the game.
“I knew that even if I didn’t do it, someone would. I have confidence in all of my teammates,” said McLaughlin.
Lybrand was glad to see his senior at the plate with the game on the line.
“I remember last year in sectionals against Bishop Gibbons, bases loaded, two out and Emily was left on deck,” said Lybrand, whose team improved to 8-3. “That’s haunted me. To have her come up in this spot was big. I know she’s going to do something.”
Bishop Gibbons lost the Big 10 title in a playoff last season, giving itself no chance at being a surprise team this season.
“Their expectations are higher, but it’s harder to play with expectations,” Holden said of his team. “It’s new for some of them, but I think they’re holding their own really well.
“We were the dark horse last year,” said Maggs, the lone senior on her team. “I think this year we all had expectations. It puts a little more pressure on us, and the younger girls are learning how to deal with it.”
Lybrand’s team is battling Albany Academy for the top spot in the Patriot Division of the Colonial Council.
“The midway point of the schedule tells who you are as a program,” said Lybrand, who had two eighth-graders and a freshman in the lineup. “Are you going to start off hot and finish cold, or are you going to keep pushing through? Every game, we’re hoping to make a statement.
“The seniors have been great with the young players. I’m seeing a big jump in maturity from the eighth-graders.”
Bishop Gibbons 000 100 0 — 1 4 3
Schalmont 001 000 1 — 2 6 1
J.Salisbury and A. Salisbury; Mahar and Yodis.