BALLSTON SPA — It’s become routine for the Ballston Spa softball program to make its way to an area championship game in recent years.
Tuesday’s 3:45 p.m. Section II Class A championship game against South Glens Falls marks the fourth consecutive year that Ballston Spa has made it to an area title game, and junior Lauren Kersch has been a member of head coach Amanda Fifield’s program since the start of that run.
That experience, though, has done little to calm Kersch before she heads to the circle to pitch for Ballston Spa during this year’s postseason run.
“But,” Kersch said, “I think I play better when I’m nervous.”
They don’t argue with that notion.
In Ballston Spa’s first two postseason games this year, Kersch has struck out 30 batters in 13 scoreless innings. Kersch allowed a hit and two walks against Amsterdam in the quarterfinals, then pitched a perfect game against Scotia-Glenville in the Scotties’ 13-0 semifinal win that was shortened to six innings.
Those two games are part of a longer scoreless streak for Kersch. The junior who missed all of last season with a knee injury hasn’t allowed an earned run since mid-May, a stretch that has lasted — so far — for 38 2-3 innings.
“She’s getting back all her pitches and her velocity,” said Ballston Spa senior Ange Stile, the team’s star catcher who will play next season for Siena College. “With each game, we see a confidence boost in her.”
As the games have started to mean more, Fifield isn’t surprised Kersch’s pitching has gone up a level for a Scotties program that made it to last year’s Class AA state championship game.
“She’s an intense kid,” Fifield said of Kersch, who has thrown multiple no-hitters during her streak of innings without allowing an earned run and has an ERA of 1.42 for the season. “She’s somebody that’s going to will her way through, regardless of the circumstances.”
At some point in Tuesday’s championship game, South Glens Falls is likely to test that toughness. While Ballston Spa (No. 1, 19-3) is the tournament’s top seed, South Glens Falls (No. 2, 16-0) shares the No. 1 ranking in this week’s state poll with Section VI’s Williamsville East.
“We’re two very similar teams. Fairly even. We know they’re coming in hungry,” Fifield said of South Glens Falls, which lost in last year’s Class A title game to Averill Park. “We’ve got to do the little things the right way and make the best happen.”
“This [South Glens Falls] team is good, so we can’t come in relaxed or intimidated,” Stile said. “We have to keep a positive mindset.”
While South Glens Falls hasn’t lost this season, Ballston Spa brings a nine-game winning streak into Tuesday’s matchup.
“We have to go in wanting the game a lot more than they want it,” Kersch said.
Each of Tuesday’s five area championship games were moved to 3:45 p.m. starts because of weather concerns.
Originally, each game had been slated for a 5 p.m. start.
Along with the Class A final, both the Class AA championship game between Bethlehem and Colonie, and the Class B championship game between Ichabod Crane and Schuylerville will take place at Luther Forest Athletic Fields.
The Class C championship game between Chatham and Lake George, and the Class D championship game between Fort Ann and Whitehall will be played at Moreau Recreational Park.
Along with Ballston Spa, which won a sectional championship in Class AA in 2018, two other squads are attempting to repeat as champions from a year ago.
Ichabod Crane won the Class B area crown last year on its way to winning a state championship, while Fort Ann is looking to win its ninth consecutive Section II Class D crown. Both those programs, too, are playing the same opponent as they did in last year’s Section II title games.