With a trio of seniors at the helm, the Pierson softball team won’t stop until it hoists a state championship.
On Saturday, those seniors and their teammates came one step closer.
The Lady Whalers, for the third consecutive season, will be making an appearance in the New York State Championships after Saturday’s 9-7 win over Chester (Section IX-Orange County) in the Class C Regional Finals at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. Pierson advances to the state semifinals, where it will play Greenwich (Section II-Capital District) on Saturday, June 14, at Moreau Park in Glens Falls. First pitch is slated for 11:30 a.m.
If Pierson defeats Greenwich, it will play in the finals later in the day at 3:30 p.m.
“These kids wanted it,” Pierson head coach Melissa Edwards said after Saturday’s win. “We got on the bus, they were singing loud—it was the most I’ve ever seen them up for a game, or going into a game, all year.
“Going back for the third time is nice. Hopefully, the third time is a charm,” she added. “We’d like to win the whole thing—but we’re winning at least one [game].”
That senior trio of Sam Duchemin, Kasey Gilbride and Emma Romeo has been in the thick of things all season long for Pierson, and Saturday was no different. With the game tied, 1-1, Gilbride started a rally in the top of the third inning that wouldn’t end until the Lady Whalers held a 9-1 lead. Pierson belted out eight hits in the inning and took advantage of two errors by Chester. Four of the eight runs in the inning came with two outs, including Duchemin’s two-run single that capped the rally.
“We did a great job attacking in the third inning,” Edwards said. “And a lot of those runs were actually with two outs, which shows the character of our team.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year that have gone into extra innings,” she continued. “We can be very tenacious, and sticking with it with two outs, it’s no big deal to us. Granted, after that, someone turned our bats off.”
Chester, indeed, controlled almost the entire second half of the game. It scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth and three runs in the sixth to make it a 9-7 game heading into the bottom half of the seventh.
Chester again threatened in the final inning. With runners on second and third and no outs, Chester’s Skylar Conklin hit into a fielder’s choice to Duchemin, the pitcher, for the first out of the inning. Then, Stephanie Dudgeon hit a hard ground ball to Pierson shortstop Kasey Gilbride, who threw home to catch the runner trying to score from third base. Eventually, Pierson tagged the runner to get a big second out.
Gilbride and Romeo, the catcher, who have been playing together for years now, said they trusted each other to get the runner trying to score.
“I knew that once it came to me, she was going to be off. I wanted to get the out at home,” Gilbride explained. “I didn’t want her to score at all. I knew I could get her, I knew Emma was going to get it. I trusted myself and Emma as well. It came together well.”
“As soon as it was hit to Kasey, it was a relief, because I knew that we’ve been playing together for five years now, three sports, she’s one of my best friends—I knew she was coming to me,” Romeo said. “We knew we had her, and the fact that I had Sam behind me backing me up made things a lot easier too.”
The next batter, Kasey Palmer, singled to center field to load the bases and keep the inning going for Chester. Duchemin, though, got ahead 0-2 in the count to the following batter, Chester’s lead off hitter, Amanda Almondovar. Romeo called for a change-up, Duchemin obliged and got Almondovar to swing and miss to end the game, and the Lady Whalers celebrated along the third-base line.
“I knew the change-up was going to get that girl,” Romeo said. “As soon as it was 0-2, I called the change-up, and we won the game.”
Duchemin said she wanted to be the one to register the final out of the game—and wanted it to be a strikeout. “I knew what needed to get done,” she said. “Especially with the bases loaded. I trust my outfield, and I trust my infield, but I wanted to be the one to get it done.”
According to Duchemin, Gilbride and Romeo, Pierson would be first school in New York State history to win two different state championships in a scholastic year—Pierson won a state title in field hockey during the fall, a team that all three seniors were a part of. But to get to the state finals, the Lady Whalers will have to do something it hasn’t been able to do the past three season: win that elusive semifinal game.
Gilbride feels this season is different than the others. “This year I think we rely on our will to win more,” she explained. “Also, it’s our last year, so we’re really going at it.
“And also, with this team, once the spark’s lit, you can’t really put us out,” she continued. “You saw that one inning where we scored eight runs—you really see our heart out there. We’re a different team this year.”