There is a reason Duanesburg coach John Conway fights to keep the Western Athletic Conference Cup on the league softball schedule.
That reason was evident Wednesday as his Eagles posed with the trophy after beating Mayfield, 10-3. The win kept the Cup in the only home it has known since it was first contested in 2010.
“They’ll probably want to change things around again next year,” said Conway, who lobbied for a 2013 schedule that had the league’s teams playing each other only once, with two games built in at the end for the tournament and crossover. “It was fun with the way the league let us do it this year, but it’s always a battle. Baseball doesn’t like this format, but I do.
“This was fun. This group is passionate about softball.”
Mayfield didn’t make it easy for the Eagles, staying close until the hosts put up five runs in the sixth inning for the final score.
“Last year, we didn’t make this game, so this was an accomplishment,” said Panthers first-year head coach Jamie Hurd.
The Duanesburg players almost take the championship game as a regular part of the schedule.
“That’s always a goal of ours every year, to win the WAC championship. Then, it’s on to sectionals,” said senior shortstop Steph Rice, whose first-inning RBI double got the Eagles started on the way to their 58th straight win.
“At the beginning of the year, he give us a sheet that asks us what we personally want to do, and what do you want to do as a team,” said outfielder Becky Nicolella. “We always say we want to win the WAC. It’s more like an expectation for us. We put in the work and effort, and it’s nice to achieve the goals you set at the beginning of the year.”
After Rice had her RBI hit and came around to score on an error for a 2-0 lead, eighth-grader Devon Hennel walked, stole second and third and came home on an error for a 3-0 lead.
Nicole Little hit a pair of RBI singles to get Mayfield to within 3-2 going into the bottom of the fifth.
Hannah McGuire’s sacrifice fly and an RBI double by Rachel Gamache put Duanesburg up by three runs. McGuire’s two-run double capped the five-run sixth, which also included RBI hits by Lia Schettine and Breanna Hanson in their only plate appearances of the game.
“We just had to stay confident,” said McGuire of the late offense. “This is one of our goals. Hopefully, it’s a stepping stone.”
“It is the best feeling, to be part of a team that continually goes out and wins in our league. We all want the same thing,” Hanson said.
“There are high expectations. Coming into the year, it was kind of stressful, because we lost a lot of seniors who played a lot.”
Senior Erika Kenney pitched the first four innings, with Tori Powers finishing the game.
“For me, being a senior, I really wanted that Cup,” said Kenney. “I didn’t want to be on the team that didn’t win it.”
Duanesburg and Mayfield will both be in the Class C sectionals. Brackets will be drawn up Monday.
“Today wasn’t our best game, but we’ve got a couple of games left
before sectionals to work everything out,” said Rice, referring to games with Addison of Section V and Deposit of Section IV this weekend in a tournament in Herkimer.
“We got some timely hits. They’ve been doing that all year,” said Conway of his team, 12-0 in the WAC and 16-2 overall. “We’ve been behind. We’ve made errors, and we’ve played clean. When we play clean, we’re really tough. We had a few hiccups today that we hope aren’t going to be there in the next phase.”
“We have our innings where we make errors, like every team, and some games it hurts you,” said Hurd, whose team beat every league rival except Duanesburg. “But they’ve played well this year, and are excited about sectionals.”
Mayfield 001 011 0 — 3 4 4
Duanesburg 310 025 x — 10 11 4
Husain and J.Little; Kenney, Powers (5) and Hanson.