Some words of advice for any team playing Mechanicville from this point on in the state softball tournament: Disregard anything you might have learned about the Lady Raiders last season.
Sure, a lot of the names are the same. But a lot of the returning players are at different positions this season.
That versatility is part of the beauty of coach Don Arceneaux’s latest championship Mechanicville team, which returns to state tourney play after an absence of two years when it meets Section VII champion Saranac in a Class B regional final today at 4:30 at Malta Rec.
“I think most coaches are used to kids coming up and saying, ‘I’m a pitcher or I’m an outfielder’, and that’s where they keep them,” said junior Kali DeMarco, last year’s shortstop and current catcher. “Don knows the game better than most coaches, I think.”
“That’s always what we thought until we got to Donnie,” said 11th-grader Kaile Kenyon. “You had a position, and that’s where you played.
“But he knows what to do at the right time. He knows the game more than anyone I know.”
DeMarco echoed the sentiment.
“He evaluates an athlete and says, ‘You may think you’re an outfielder, but you may be the best catcher we have on the team,’ ” she said.
“He can take athletes and see what they have to offer. Normally, you see a team and there’s no changes. Teams look at us and go, ‘Why is your catcher in the outfield?’”
“When we practiced before the season, everyone played a position in the infield,” said senior Jami Frosell, who somehow has remained an outfielder for her varsity career. “We all know what’s going on. We know all the plays. If anyone gets injured, he has a substitute ready.”
Kenyon shared time at first and third base during the 2013 regular season. This year, Arceneaux has her playing third base, with senior Kim Thompson at the other corner.
“Wherever he feels we’ll do best for the team that year, that’s where he puts us,” said Kenyon, who plays beside her younger sister, freshman Amanda, on the left side of the infield.
“Last year, me and Kim Thompson switched between third and first every game. For sectionals, she beat me out and played first base. This year, we needed a third baseman, and he said, ‘KK, you’re going to be here.’ ”
“He sees the athleticism each player has, and he thinks about what each player has to offer,” said Erin Maloney, a junior who moved in from the outfield to play second base this season. “He puts them in the position he thinks will benefit the team.
“It works. It helps everyone because you have a little experience playing different positions. Coming up, I always played right field. Last year I came in during sectionals and played third.”
Of all the changes, DeMarco’s was the most drastic.
DeMarco went from learning a new position last year to returning to a comfort zone this spring.
“I caught my whole life. I never played shortstop until last year,” she said. “So that was a big change. That was new to me. It’s a completely different game, being an infielder as opposed to catching, where you’re involved in every pitch.”
None of the Lady Raiders are overly concerned about where they will be when they take the field today against the 14-5 Lady Chiefs, who won their third consecutive Section VII title by beating AuSable Valley.
Troy also has a regional semi today, the two-time Class A champion playing Section VII’s Peru at SUNY-Platsburgh at 2:30.