By Gavin Menu; photography by Kevin Duchemin
The Pierson softball team cruised to victory in last year’s New York State Class C Southeast Regional Final, winning by 17 runs to advance to their second consecutive state semifinal. Facing Chester at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue on Saturday, it seemed as if the Lady Whalers would once again march on to the next level with relative ease.
But with Pierson leading by eight runs early, last year’s script was flipped and Chester turned an early blowout into a late-inning nail biter. The Lady Whalers (14-5) made a series of clutch defensive plays in the final inning to hold on for a 9-7 victory, one they and their head coach Melissa Edwards hope will also propel them to an altered ending upstate, where they have lost two straight semifinal games.
“The core of this team was also in the state championship in field hockey this year, so as far as the environment is concerned, they understand it,” Edwards said. “The way I look at it is these are the last four teams, so anything can happen.”
Pierson will face Greenwich from Section II — the team it lost to in 2012 — at Moreau Park in South Glens Falls this Saturday, June 14, at 11:30 a.m., with the winner advancing to play either Bolivar-Richburg (Section V) or Edison (Section IV) in the championship game at 3:30 p.m.
For a number of the Lady Whalers, including standouts Kasey Gilbride, Emma Romeo and ace pitcher Sam Duchemin, the trip upstate could end in a remarkable second state championship in the same school year. Those three, along with Cali Cafiero, were members of the Pierson field hockey team that won the program’s first-ever state title in the fall.
“As far as the pressure of it all, they get it,” Edwards said.
Pierson needed every bit of an eight-run third inning on Saturday to advance, with Duchemin, the team’s cleanup hitter, roping a two-out, two-run single to finish a rally that, in the end, provided enough breathing room for the Lady Whalers to prevail.
Duchemin finished 2 for 4 at the plate, with a pair of RBIs, while freshman Isabel Peters also finished with two RBIs as well as two runs scored.
Chester scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and three more in the sixth to trim the lead to two runs going into the bottom of the seventh, and final inning, when Chester once again threatened to score. With runners on second and third with no outs, Duchemin forced a fielder’s choice for the first out, and Gilbride fielded a hard hit ball at shortstop before cutting off the runner at home plate, allowing Romeo, the catcher, to throw back to the third for the second out of the inning.
Duchemin struck out Chester’s Amanda Almondovar on three pitches for the final out, sparking a wild celebration at the center of the diamond.
“They made some huge plays in the seventh inning,” Edwards said. “I have faith in my girls to get it done and they did what they had to do.”