BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Rounding third base with some speed, Shenendehowa senior Marissa Kirker slapped head coach Chris Farquharson an enthusiastic high-five to celebrate her two-run home run.
Then, Kirker slowed a bit as she turned fully for home. As she neared her teammates waiting for her at the plate, she started to duck her head a bit, too.
The reason for her hesitance became clear once she hit the plate, as Kirker’s teammates swarmed and congratulated her Monday on her blast with some of their own to her helmet.
“Our team, we’re very big on hitting the top of the helmet [to celebrate] and we go a little hard with it,” Kirker said, laughing. “You have to brace yourself when you’re about to step on the plate.”
Opponents, meanwhile, are bracing themselves for when they take on Shenendehowa this season. After topping Troy 8-0 to start their day, the Plainsmen beat Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 18-2 in their nightcap, run totals that pushed Shenendehowa’s season average to 15.0 per game through a 10-0 start to the season.
Kirker’s round-tripper against Troy was the 16th of the season for Shenendehowa, which is ranked No. 1 in the New York State Sportswriters Association’s Class AA poll released Monday. The Plainsmen showed their depth against Troy, as Shenendehowa had four different players mash extra-base hits within the opening pair of innings in which the team scored all eight of its runs.
“Top through bottom, even off the bench, everyone can [contribute],” Kirker said.
That’s not a surprise for head coach Chris Farquharson’s squad, which returned all but one starter from last year’s Section II Class AA title team. This year’s team is built to win a another sectional title and compete for a state championship, and the Plainsmen are making sure not to cheat themselves.
“Everyone sees the outcome of the work, but nobody really sees the time they’re putting in with the weight room, with training,” Farquharson said. “They put in a lot of work before we even hit.”
The results, though, have been incredible. Three of the team’s everyday players — senior first baseman Kelly Barkevich, senior second baseman Kelly O’Gorman and junior shortstop Nicole McCarvill — are all hitting comfortably above .500 for the season, while Barkevich’s six home runs lead the team.
If there has been a surprise this season for the Plainsmen, it is with the offense’s power numbers. Through its wins Monday, Shenendehowa had 50 extra-base hits.
“That gives us confidence,” said McCarvill, who had a two-RBI double in the first inning vs. Troy. “If we’re down, we know we can always get it back. If we start hot, we know we can stay hot.”
Shenendehowa started hot against Troy, which started sophomore Serifina French instead of senior ace Hunter Levesque in the pitcher’s circle. French was able to blank the Plainsmen in her final three innings of work, while Levesque — a University of Pittsburgh recruit — worked a perfect inning in relief.
For the Plainsmen, senior pitcher Abby Shields twirled a three-hitter to pick up her seventh win of the season and second consecutive shutout.
Several big games loom at the end of this week for the Plainsmen, which play host Friday to Columbia before traveling Saturday to take on Section III’s Liverpool, the state’s fourth-ranked team, as part of a doubleheader.
Farquharson said he just wants to see his team keep grinding away, while Kirker said the Plainsmen do still need some “fine-tuning” before the postseason arrives — like maybe going a little easier on each other after home runs.
“That echo really bounces around your helmet,” she said.