Getting shut out without recording a single hit in a state semifinal game might be considered a disappointing end to a season for most coaches.
It’s not for Melissa Edwards.
After watching her Pierson softball team lose 7-0 to Frewsburg in the Class C semifinals at Morse Field in Queensbury, New York, on Saturday morning, Edwards said disappointment was the last thing on her mind. Despite having only one senior and two juniors on the roster, and starting a bevy of eighth-graders in key spots, the Lady Whalers managed to make their second consecutive trip to states, exceeding the expectations of pretty much everyone, including their coach.
“I’m not disappointed,” Edwards said immediately following the game. “Every year, our goal is to go to states, but realistically, this year, with this group, I wasn’t sure it would happen.
“The fact that it became a reality is amazing,” she continued. “The fact that we made it this far is a testament to their ability to improve throughout the season.”
Frewsburg went on to win the state Class C title later that afternoon, beating Sandy Creek 2-1.
Pierson dealt with a great deal of adversity throughout the year, losing players to both injury and illness, forcing Edwards to start inexperienced players on a regular basis. The team rallied to beat Port Jefferson in the county championship after losing the first game of a three-game set, and then beat Haldane in the regional final on Wednesday, falling behind in the first inning before going on to enjoy a 24-7 rout that stamped their ticket to states.
The Lady Whalers fell behind early on Saturday as well, but a comeback was not in the cards as Frewsburg starter Sam Mott—one of eight seniors on the team’s roster—tossed a no-hitter in six innings of work, picking up nine strikeouts and issuing no walks. Frewsburg’s coaching staff elected to take her out after six innings to allow Kaitlyn Blanchard to finish the game. She struck out the side to preserve a combined no-hitter for the Lady Bears.
Frewsburg wasted no time getting its offense going when leadoff batter Reyanne Strong laced the first pitch of the game for a single. The Lady Whalers were shaky defensively in the first inning, and the Lady Bears made them pay. Mott had a sacrifice ground-out with the bases loaded and no outs to bring Strong home. Frewsburg scored its next run on an error with two outs, and got another run to make it 3-0 when a grounder fielded by shortstop Kasey Gilbride and thrown to Lotti Evans at first base, was low and bounced off Evans’s glove.
The score remained at 3-0 until the fourth, when Frewsburg’s Karlee Foti led off with a walk, Strong got on base with a bunt and Shawna Raymond loaded the bases with another bunt. Pierson starter Sam Duchemin fielded Raymond’s bunt and tried to get the lead runner out at third, but the throw was not in time, giving Frewsburg the bases loaded with no outs. Pierson made an out at home after a grounder by McKenzie Cass, but then a high fly ball to centerfield by Mott bounced out of eighth-grader Callie Cafiero’s glove, allowing a run to score.
A two-run double by Annie Berg followed, giving the Lady Bears a 6-0 advantage. Frewsburg tacked on its final run in the top of the seventh, when Emily Hair was called safe at home after a hit by Foti, although a photo revealed that Hair hadn’t touched home plate when Pierson catcher Emma Romeo applied the tag.
Frewsburg moved on to face Sandy Creek in the state final. Sandy Creek enjoyed an 11-1 win over defending state champion Greenwich, the team that knocked Pierson out in the semis last year.
Pierson will say good-bye to just one senior, Julia Schiavoni, who played in right field on Saturday but also saw a lot of time at third base and even stepped in to catch in the Port Jeff series when Romeo was out sick.
With nearly the entire team returning next year, Edwards didn’t ruminate on the loss for long.
“If we came up with this group this year, and we’re only graduating one senior,” she said, “imagine what we can do next year.”