BALLSTON SPA — They'll head off in opposite directions for state semifinal games, yet the final steps taken by the Ballston Spa baseball and softball teams to reach the spring season's final weekend were similar in several ways.
Right down to the final outs in Saturday's state Class A quarterfinal games, on throws from third to first.
"I was like, 'We did it. We're going back,'" said junior third baseman Paige Davis, whose peg to first capped the softball team's 5-1 win over Jamesville-DeWitt of Section III at Moreau Park. "To help my team, it was such a good feeling."
Davis hadn't fielded a ball all game, and the one that came her way was anything but routine. She backhanded a sharp grounder near the line, and momentum took her to her knees. Davis still had enough on the throw to finish off a two-game sweep by the Scotties.
Earlier Saturday, the baseball team had rallied for a 4-2 win over Whitesboro, another Section III representative, at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
"My dad and I were watching a game and saw [Colorado Rockies third baseman] Nolan Arenado do it, and my dad and I practiced it," Davis said of throwing from her knees. "I just wanted the ball."
Ana Gold hit a long ball over the fence in the first inning to get Ballston Spa going, and Donovan Rhoden went deep for the baseball team, with his two-run home run erasing a 2-1 deficit in the sixth.
"Earlier in the season, she wasn't hitting as well as she wanted to," Luke Gold said of his younger sister, whose home run in the Section II softball final gave Ballston Spa a 3-2 win over South Glens Falls. "She's locked in now."
Luke Gold walked to begin his team's six inning, stole second with one down, and came home ahead of Rhoden.
"My seventh, eighth and ninth batters all went to full counts [in the fifth], and those at-bats tired their pitcher out," Ballston Spa baseball coach Curtis Nobles said. "He started to elevate, and it worked out. Someone different every game."
Caroline Srokowski's successful squeeze bunt brought home Halle Wright with the go-ahead run in the softball game, giving the Scotties a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second.
"The biggest thing is doing the little things right," Ballston Spa softball coach Amanda Fifield said. "That's why we start every practice with a bunting drill."
The baseball team had a gamble pay off, too, when Rhoden intentionally got caught in a rundown play between first and second with two down in the home fourth, the ball sailed into the outfield, and Jake Manderson scored from third to tie the game at 1-1.
"We ran our pull-up play. They got a home run from [Avery] Cook [in the top of the fourth], and we answered," Nobles said. "When I was coaching at Troy, I used that play in 2007 against La Salle in a quarterfinal game, and that propelled us to the final."
Manderson pitched a complete-game three-hitter Saturday, and Lauren Kersch pitched shutout ball over the final five innings and also finished with a three-hitter.
"We're rolling right now," Manderson said. "We had goals to win the section, and we've got that one checked off, and to win regionals, and we've got that one checked off. Hopefully we can win states."
Both Ballston Spa teams will be meeting contingents from Sayville in the state semifinal round, with both of the Long Island teams advancing in dramatic fashion. The Sayville baseball team nipped W.T. Clark 1-0 behind Brock Murtha's no-hit pitching and Jack Davis' RBI single in the seventh. The Sayville softball team edged Mepham 5-4 when Angie Capuano's RBI single capped a two-run seventh.
"In the state, there are over 600 school districts," Sayville athletic director Dennis Maloney said. "What are the odds we're playing in the first round?"
Both first-time final four baseball participants, Ballston Spa and Sayville will play Friday at 5 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School. Maine-Endwell and Canandaigua will play there at 2 p.m. Saturday's 10 a.m. title game will be held at Binghamton University.
The Ballston Spa and Sayville softball teams will both be making return trips to the final four. They will play Saturday at 9 a.m. at Moreau Park, and Walter Panas and Williamsville East will meet at the same time. Saturday's title game is set for 1:30 p.m.
Ballston Spa lost in the state Class AA softball title game to Victor last year.
"Ballston Spa will bring their best and we'll bring our best," Maloney said. "It should be some great competition."