BALLSTON SPA — They waited a year for another chance.
Now, it’s here.
Ballston Spa expects to make the most of it.
“We’ve been looking toward this since the moment we walked off that field last year,” Ballston Spa softball head coach Amanda Fifield said earlier this week.
That “moment” was right after Ballston Spa fell in last year’s Class AA state championship game at Moreau Recreational Park to Section V’s Victor, a defeat that has stuck with the Scotties throughout the last year. Ballston Spa received a measure of revenge last weekend when it won its Class A state quarterfinal on the same field it lost last year’s state championship, but the games Fifield’s team have targeted take place this weekend.
“We expected to make it back here,” Ballston Spa senior first baseman Megan McMahon said. “We have our goals, and we’re trying to meet them.”
“It just shows all the hard work we put in during the offseason is paying off,” Ballston Spa sophomore shortstop Ana Gold said. “Hopefully, we can reach our goal of winning states.”
In a 9 a.m. semifinal Saturday at Moreau Recreational Park, Ballston Spa (21-3) plays Sayville (Section XI, 24-0). The winner of that game will play in the day’s 1:30 p.m. championship against the winner of a 9 a.m. matchup between Walter Panas (Section I, 16-9) and Williamsville East (Section VI, 25-0).
“We know what getting to that [championship] game feels like, so we want that same feeling again,” Fifield said. “But we also know what losing in that game feels like, so we’re going to work to make that different.”
A year ago, Ballston Spa appeared in its first state championship game after Ange Stile slugged a walk-off home run in the semifinal. Looking back, Fifield said her program could have better handled the break before the championship game, which saw Ballston Spa lose 7-1 after all of the excitement from its semifinal’s ending. This year, if Ballston Spa tops Sayville, Fifield said her players will stay together for the duration of their break to prepare for the afternoon’s final, a change from last year when the Scotties spent some time apart from each other in the hours between games.
“It was an unknown,” Fifield said of how to handle the break between games last year.
“This year, we have to stay together,” McMahon said. “We have to just think about the game. Nothing else.”
That includes the school’s prom, which takes place Saturday night. Several Scotties are planning to attend and those athletes have plans — and backup plans — for how to get ready for the night’s festivities depending on how they do on the softball field.
“And I’d much rather take the state title than be on time for [prom] pictures,” McMahon said.
Heading into this weekend’s action, Williamsville East is the top-ranked team in the state. It seems likely that Ballston Spa will need to defeat a pair of undefeated teams if it is to claim its program’s first-ever state championship just three years after it appeared in its first-ever area title game.
“We play our best when our energy is high. The nerves are definitely there, but we just want to keep our energy up,” Ballston Spa junior right fielder Katelyn Hilko said. “That’s going to be our last day together, so the nerves are there, but the excitement is there, too.”
Also present for the Scotties?
A confidence that they’re back where they belong.
“It’s been our mission to get here,” Fifield said. “Now, we’re here. We have to work to make our goal happen.”