It was an all too familiar feeling for the Pierson softball team at the Class C New York State semifinals at Moreau Park in South Glens Falls on Saturday. The Lady Whalers lost, 9-1, to Greenwich, marking, for the third straight season, they have failed to make the state finals.
Greenwich (Section II-Capital District) wound up losing, 6-1, to Edison (Section IV-Southern Tier) in the state championship game later on Saturday.
It was quite apparent that Pierson, even though it had been on the state stage before, had some nerves to work through early on against Greenwich. The Lady Whalers made four errors in the field in the bottom of the second inning which led to a 3-0 lead for the Witches. Then a few misplays in the bottom of the third led to two more runs, giving Greenwich a 5-0 lead.
The Lady Whalers, hunkered down, for the most part, after the third but still had a hard time figuring out Greenwich starting pitcher Rachel Hall, a freshman coming off a no-hitter in the Witches state quarterfinal victory over St. Lawrence (Section X). Pierson junior Sam Duchemin got to Hall with an RBI double to right center field in the sixth, driving in junior Zoe Diskin, who led off the inning with a single, and was bunted over to second by senior Kasey Gilbride.
That was all the Lady Whalers could muster, though. Freshman Isabel Peters drew a one-out walk in the seventh, but following a strikeout, junior Sabrina Baum popped out to the infield to end the game.
“We weren’t into this, mentally, as we needed to be,” Pierson head coach Melissa Edwards said after the game. “They actually were nervous and I don’t get it, we’ve been here three times. They should have those nerves kicked by now.
“We didn’t really play as well defensively as we should have,” she added. “My defense is normally pretty solid, the ball just didn’t go our way. We had a lot of unlucky [at bats] and a lot of things went right for Greenwich.”
Edwards explained that Pierson is one of the smallest schools in Class C in New York State. “It’s a big deal, especially for a little school like us, to get up here,” she said. “Just being here is an accomplishment for us. We’re a team of 12 kids from little Sag Harbor, New York,—to even be in the running…I couldn’t be any more proud of my kids.
“We have an amazing community, an amazing support system in our parents,” Edwards continued. “They were in this whole game with us.”
Gilbride, along with senior teammate Emma Romeo, each have been in five different state tournament games, through field hockey as well as softball, so they’re familiar with what each game means. “It is our third time [upstate], but still, we have a young team and we only graduate two seniors,” Gilbride explained. “You’re still going to get the nerves when you do come here. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen, we’re humans. Every game you get a little bit [of nerves], but you come up here, you see all the big teams, it’s a different mentality, a different surrounding that contributes to someone’s mindset and our mindset as a team.”
A few Lady Whalers didn’t think Greenwich, which made its fourth consecutive appearance at states, was all that tough. “I think it was our nerves and we were just swinging at stuff we shouldn’t have,” Duchemin said.
“Honestly, I think we made a lot of silly mistakes,” Romeo said. “We’re a snowball team, if someone makes a mistake, it’s hard to come back from it.
“They were good players, but I think we were pretty evenly matched,” she added.
Edwards and the rest of the softball program at Pierson will now have to deal with the loss of Gilbride and Romeo, both of whom have been on the team since eighth grade, to graduation this month. Gilbride will be heading to the University of Richmond to play field hockey, while Romeo will be attending the State University of New York at Oneonta to continue to play softball.
“[Romeo] plays all year long and she gives her heart to softball, and that kind of leadership and the leadership through how she plays is quite amazing,” Edwards said. “To see her take ownership of this team, you miss a kid like that. She gave her all to Pierson softball and now she’ll do it next year at Oneonta, I’m sure.”
Gilbride, who starred on the field hockey, basketball and softball teams, will be leaving Pierson as one of the top athletes its ever produced. “I can’t find the words for that kind of kid,” Edwards said. “She is the epitome of an athlete. She’s a gem. I’m sure I’ll be at Richmond watching a lot of her games next year.”
The loss of Romeo is huge, though, leaving a gaping hole at the catcher position. Still, with Duchemin and a number of other juniors returning next season as seniors, Edwards thinks she’ll have what it takes to get back to the state tournament.
“Softball goes off your pitching and I have Sam and I have her for another year,” she said. “So we’ll make a catcher and we’ll give it another shot, hopefully. There aren’t really the words to explain the loss of not having Kasey and Emma around but we’ll figure it out.”