BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Dealing with a forceful wind is nothing new for the Shenendehowa softball team when it plays on its home field. Still, the environment for Friday’s Section II Class AA quarterfinal game against Ballston Spa was tough to handle.
“This,” said Shenendehowa head coach Chris Farquharson, “was extraordinarily windy.”
But the Plainsmen managed the day’s elements on their end and took advantage of a couple wind-aided miscues from Ballston Spa, as Shenendehowa picked up a 5-0 win and advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals.
“Now, we’re even more pumped to work harder for the next one,” Plainsmen third baseman Marissa Kirker said.
Kirker was involved in two of the game’s windiest moments. In the third inning with teammate Alyssa Garrison on first base, Kirker slapped a hit to third. Ballston Spa attempted to force Garrison out at second base, but the throw got caught in a strong breeze and ended up in right field. On the play, Garrison scored and Kirker ended up at third base.
“The wind definitely affected our base running,” said Kirker. “We changed our mentality. We were more aggressive.”
The next frame, Kirker had to deal with the wind on defense. Playing third base, a high pop was hit over Kirker’s head to shallow left field — that is, until it slammed into a gust of wind and ended up falling in foul territory in line with third base.
“It was almost like it was curving,” Kirker said of the ball’s trajectory.
Kirker made the catch with a dive, conquering the wind for at least one play.
“She made a Willie Mays catch on it,” Farquharson said.
The Plainsmen coach said he had reminded his players before the game to take nothing for granted because of the day’s conditions. Farquharson’s squad listened, as his infield was more vocal than usual in calling for balls and his outfielders stayed diligent about the wind blowing across the field from left to right.
“It was pretty crazy out there,” said Garrison, the right fielder. “Every once in a while, I’d pick up some grass and drop it just to see how the wind was going. You had to keep in mind that if the ball was hit high, you had no idea where it was going.”
Like in the fifth inning, when the Plainsmen benefited from a highly-hit flyball from first baseman Kelly Barkevich. The ball off Barkevich’s bat looked like a routine pop to the shallow part of the outfield, but the wind grabbed the ball and played with it until it dunked onto the infield dirt near the pitcher’s circle.
Barkevich’s poke came with two outs, so the Plainsmen base runners — Nicole McCarvill and Kelly O’Gorman — had been off with contact, allowing each to score on the hit that landed about 40 feet from home plate.
For Barkevich, the hit was one of three singles on the day, while the junior collected four RBIs. Garrison also had multiple hits — a double and a single — and scored twice.
Defensively, Abby Shields starred for the Plainsmen, picking up the shutout with seven innings of two-hit ball. Shields struck out six.