BY MICHAEL KELLY
MALTA — As she delivered her final pitch, Ballston Spa senior Ashlyn Kersch had to fight to keep her composure.
“I almost started crying,” she said. “But that’s OK.”
Yes, yes it is.
With a 7-3 win against Shenendehowa in the May 27 Section II Class AA softball title game at the Luther Forest Athletic Fields, Ballston Spa clinched its program’s first-ever area championship. Before this season, Ballston Spa had never even finished as a runner-up.
“Our whole goal was to get here and do as well as we possibly could,” said Scotties third baseman Grace Thompson, a sophomore who made the catch to record the game’s final out. “That’s what we did.”
For Ballston Spa, its win was about more than a high school first for its players. From pitcher Ashlyn Kersch down to her little sister Lauren Kersch, an eighth-grader who plays second base, nobody could remember winning a softball championship at any level of play while competing for a Ballston Spa team.
“We’ve won nothing,” said Ashlyn Kersch, who struck out five Plainsmen and went 2-for-5 with two runs scored in support of herself. “This doesn’t happen for us. This is it.”
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Ballston Spa left fielder Katie McMahon, the team’s only other senior. “I’ve never been so excited and happy before. It just feels so good to win.”
Ballston Spa (No. 4, 17-4) led Shenendehowa (No. 3, 18-4) 2-1 through four innings. In the fifth inning, the Scotties rallied for five runs to give themselves breathing room.
That inning, Ballston Spa had eight consecutive batters reach base safely, at one point stringing together five straight RBI singles. For the game, the Scotties recorded 13 hits — all but one of which were singles.
“That’s all I wanted them to do,” Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield said of her team’s small-ball success.
“[Ballston Spa] did a great job hitting the ball today. They were really attacking at the plate,” said Shenendehowa head coach Chris Farquharson, whose program won the area’s 2015 title. “[Shen pitchers] were hitting spots, and they were hitting the pitches.”
The Plainsmen answered back in their half of the inning. Senior first baseman Kelly Barkevich slugged a two-run home run, but Shenendehowa could not make up any more of its deficit.
“We knew we weren’t allowed to let them get the momentum,” said Ballston Spa sophomore first baseman Sarah Pritchard, whose squad had led Shenendehowa 4-0 in a regular-season game before losing 5-4.
Shenendehowa put two runners on base in its scoreless sixth inning before Ashlyn Kersch worked a clean final frame.
“They don’t give up,” Farquharson said of his team, which was ranked No. 1 in the state early this season.
After the game, the second-year varsity coach said his message to his senior-laden crew was one of thanks.
“I just let them know how proud I am, how privileged I am, to [have been] able to coach that group,” Farquharson said. “They’re a special group of kids.”
For the Plainsmen, Barkevich, shortstop Nicole McCarvill and right fielder Sadie Evans all had multiple hits. Senior pitcher Abby Shields took the loss.