MOREAU — Each game in Ballston Spa’s run through the Class AA softball state tournament, the Scotties trailed late.
Finally, in the Scotties’ first-ever appearance in the state championship game, Ballston Spa ran out of memorable comebacks.
“Still really proud of this team,” Ballston Spa senior Sarah Pritchard said. “We made it to the finals, and that’s history for Ballston Spa.”
After winning 6-5 against East Meadow in its semifinal with a walk-off home run from junior Ang Stile, Ballston Spa fell 7-1 to Victor in the state championship game at Moreau Recreational Park. While bad luck cut short multiple Ballston Spa rallies in the championship game, Victor made the most of its opportunities and received a game-changing grand slam from sophomore Chloe Whittier in the sixth inning.
“We had a lot of momentum coming from our first game,” Ballston Spa freshman Ana Gold said. “But things just didn’t go our way.”
In the semifinals, East Meadow (Section VIII, 19-6) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning before Gold led off for Ballston Spa (22-4) with a home run. The Scotties jumped ahead 3-1 in the third inning with RBIs coming from Stile and senior Grace Thompson, and that lead remained before East Meadow scored a pair of runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to go ahead 5-3.
Ballston Spa didn’t panic. In the bottom of the sixth, a two-out RBI double from sophomore Alison Sgambati brought the Scotties within 5-4 heading into the game’s final inning.
“These girls just fight,” Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield said. “They’re resilient.”
Ballston Spa worked a scoreless defensive seventh inning, a frame that included the Scotties’ fourth double-play of the game. Then, after junior Megan McMahon singled and advanced to second on an East Meadow error, Stile stepped to the plate after having bunted in her last two plate appearances.
“You’re hitting this time,” Fifield told Stile.
Stile connected for home-run distance on the first pitch she saw — but she slammed it foul.
“No nerves. I was ready to go.,” Stile said. “I was just ready to zone one up.”
Her next swing sent the ball well over the fence in center field to send the Scotties to the championship game.
“It’s amazing,” Stile said of the ensuing celebration with her teammates. “Once in a lifetime. It’s awesome.”
Victor (Section V, 24-2) won 4-0 against Minisink Valley (Section IX, 22-1) in its semifinal. The Blue Devils struck first against the Scotties with a run in the second inning. Ballston Spa tied the score in the fourth inning with an RBI sacrifice fly from sophomore Paige Davis, but Victor answered back with two runs in the fifth and four in the sixth.
“We were all super-excited to be playing in this game, and Victor just beat us with the bats. We had our energy, but they beat us with the bats,” said Pritchard, who pitched all 14 innings Saturday for the Scotties. “We just didn’t have that inning where we strung together a lot of hits.”
In both the sixth and seventh innings, Ballston Spa had multiple runners reach base with no outs. Each time, though, the Scotties caught a bad break and saw their rally end without scoring. In the sixth inning, a hard-hit line drive turned into a double-play when Victor freshman shortstop Emily Power made a leaping catch and fired the ball to first base to record another out. Then, in the seventh inning, a dropped line drive in the infield turned into another double-play for Victor.
“We had a lot of energy and we were hitting the ball hard,” Gold said. “They just weren’t falling in for us.”
No Ballston Spa player had multiple hits in the championship game, while Gold and McMahon each had two hits for the Scotties in their semifinal win.
In Ballston Spa’s state tournament quarterfinal win against Cicero-North Syracuse, the Scotties trailed 1-0 in the sixth inning before putting together a six-run frame to advance to Saturday’s action.
Ballston Spa loses four seniors — Jillian Nitchman, Pritchard, Thompson and Hailey Vecere — from its 2018 roster, but brings back a wealth of talent for 2019. The Scotties have appeared in the last three Section II championship games, and appear poised to continue that run of success in the years to come.
“The younger girls will definitely come back hungry and wanting to be back here,” Fifield said.
Gold said the returning Scotties will use their season-ending defeat as motivation during the offseason.
“We’re going to come back next year and try to go all the way,” Gold said.
VICTOR 7, BALLSTON SPA 1
Victor 010 024 0 00 7 12 2
Ballston Spa 000 100 0 — 1 5 4
Sidare and Grooms; Pritchard and Stile.
BALLSTON SPA 6, EAST MEADOW 5
East Meadow 100 022 0 — 5 10 4
Ballston Spa 102 001 2 — 6 7 2
Loeffler and Polansky; Pritchard and Stile.