By Gavin Menu; photography by Kevin Duchemin
The old English proverb says the third time should be a charm. But proverbs can be overly simplistic, while reality is often much more difficult.
The Pierson Lady Whalers learned this lesson the hard way over the weekend, falling in the semifinal round of the New York State Class C playoffs for a third consecutive year.
The program, which has enjoyed great success under the leadership of head coach Melissa Edwards and senior captains Emma Romeo and Kasey Gilbride, returned home empty handed after losing 9-1 to the Greenwich Witches at Moreau Park in South Glens Falls on Saturday afternoon.
Greenwich (Section II) went on to lose to Edison (Section IV) in the state championship game later that day.
“At the time it felt like we were confident and ready to go,” Gilbride said about the team’s mentality going in on Saturday. “Definitely ready to give it 100 percent, inning by inning, playing first pitch to last. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t maintain that confidence.”
As was the case at times during the regular season, defense proved to be the Achilles Heel of the Lady Whalers (14-6), who committed a handful of errors in the second and third innings, which allowed Greenwich to jump out to an early 5-0 lead.
“We didn’t play the best game we could have,” Edwards said. “We just weren’t able to execute, and it was across the board. At that level you have to be solid and we definitely could have played better.”
Meanwhile, Greenwich freshman Rachel Hall, who had thrown a no-hitter in the quarterfinals, baffled the Lady Whalers offense for most of the afternoon. Sam Duchemin’s RBI double in the sixth inning scored Zoe Diskin with Pierson’s only run of the game. Hall picked up the win by allowing just two hits while striking out six.
The future remains bright for the Lady Whalers, who will return 10 of their 12 players next season, including Duchemin, their All-County ace pitcher. The loss of Gilbride and Romeo will sting, however, as Edwards explained after the weekend.
“They have become the epitome of what I want representing Pierson softball,” Edwards said about Gilbride and Romeo. “You can’t really replace a kid like Emma. Losing her is going to be a huge void to fill.”
Edwards said Gilbride, who led the field hockey team to a state championship last fall and will attend the University of Richmond on a field hockey scholarship next year, is the kind of athlete who has the ability to transform an entire program.
“I trust to her to get everything done, and she does it,” Edwards said. “She’s able to go out there and dominate any sport and I respect her tremendously.”
Gilbride, in return, had plenty to say about her coach as well.
“I really have to give credit to Coach Edwards for building the program to the level it is now, “ she said. “She has really high expectations for her girls, but at the same time gives them the tools to achieve what she expects. She has high standards on how she expects us to be as people and not just athletes.”
Edwards expects Pierson softball to make another run at a state title next year, despite the loss of two of its brightest stars. Returning along with Duchemin is a strong senior class that includes Sabrina Baum, Zoe Diskin and Meg Schiavoni, and this year’s freshman and sophomores will have this year’s postseason experience to build upon.
“I’m going to want this to be the expectation going forward,” Edwards said about reaching the state semifinals. “We have the ability to get up there, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
“Practice, practice, practice,” Gilbride added when asked what advice she would give a young athlete who wants to reach the pinnacle of the sport. “One of my favorite quotes is by Derek Jeter. ‘There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.’”