6/13/17

 

* That’s a wrap for the 2017 season, as Maine-Endwell repeated as Class A state champions, and Deposit did the same (three straight) over in Class D.  Binghamton came really close to joining them in Class AA, but were just edged out.

 

* There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive right in!  Today I’m going to look at the five Section IV champions (Binghamton, Maine-Endwell, Susquehanna Valley, Elmira Notre Dame, and Deposit), and their chances of repeating in 2018.

 

* Let’s start with the team that has completely taken over Class D in New York, and doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon, the Deposit Lumberjacks.  One year after completely blowing through the state tournament (winning all three games by combined scores of 25-0), Deposit was tested more this time around.  They fought through a late push by Eldred in the quarterfinals to win 5-3, then enjoyed an easier win over Fort Ann in the semis 6-1, and had to hold their breath in winning it all over Heuvelton 1-0.  The championship game, just like M-E and Binghamton experienced, was truly a game that came down to one swing.  That swing belonged to young Mikayla Martin, whose 3rd inning double scored Erin Ballard.  Makenzie Stiles had 16 strikeouts, and the Lumberjacks needed every one of them to hold off a game Heuvelton team, which did not go down without a fight.  That makes it five state championships in school history (1989 in Class C, 1990 in Class D).

 

* What’s most encouraging for Deposit is that since they have so many young players coming back, there’s no reason to think they can’t go on an “Afton-like” run in winning more and more.  Afton has seven state championships, with the last coming in 2009.  Deposit will return Stiles, who will be entering her junior year before taking her talents to Pittsburgh in 2019.  Her catcher Bryn Martin is also a junior next year, so keeping the battery together is huge.  That’s two more years in which they can realistically set the goal of winning another state title.  They will absolutely miss Alea Tiffany next year, who got on base in nearly half of her plate appearances.  But, with so many players gaining big game experience, they have the talent to replace her and a few other seniors.  Plus, their toughest competition in Edmeston will lose Catherine Johnson and Sarah Lawrence, who are darn near impossible to replace.  Sorry, rest of the state, but Deposit is here to stay.

 

* If the Maine-Endwell district hasn’t convinced you that they have one of the top sports programs in all of New York, well, I’m not sure what it will take.  The latest program to claim gold are the ladies on the varsity softball diamond, who downed Williamsville East 1-0 for back-to-back Class A championships.  Last year, the offense scored more runs to support Emily Hess, as they totaled 24 runs in four state tournament games (they had a first round game, unlike this year).  This time around, it was the incredible arm of Hess leading the way, who’s a year stronger, wiser, and battle-tested.  She is currently on a scoreless innings streak of 34, and she did it during the hardest part of the season.  That’s unreal.  In three state tournament games, the Spartans scored five runs…and won each game.  That says it all right there.

 

* Just like Stiles, Hess is an underclassman and will be back, albeit as a senior.  M-E plays such a tough schedule all season long, as they have to compete with Binghamton, Horseheads, and Vestal, to name a few.  Plus, teams like U-E, Corning, and Elmira will always have talent.  So, it all comes back to Section IV getting these teams more than ready to compete with the rest of the state.  Hess being back is huge, but a couple of seniors they will really miss are Mikayla Garbarino and Meaghan Raleigh.  Garbarino provided the big blow in the state semi with a two-run homer, and Raleigh hit a long bomb against Vestal in the Section IV championship.  M-E’s scoring in the playoffs was down this year compared to the past, so losing two bats like that won’t be easy.  Still, knowing this school, there’s plenty of talent ready to step up and step in.  As long as they have the ace on the mound, they will favored to keep winning it all.

 

* Binghamton had the most interesting season of them all.  They’re constantly reminded that they lost 5 of their first 7, only to turn things around and come within a play or two of winning their second straight Class AA state championship.  It’s definitely an interesting story, but it’s also a reminder of just how tough their competition is in STAC.  They weren’t playing scrubs to start the season, they were playing M-E, Horseheads, and Vestal, who all were playing for Section IV championships.  They also got edged by Elmira in the last inning, and split a pair at the Forever Missed Tournament in Shenendehowa.  If anything, the Patriots were trying to get over losing great talent from 2016 like Elena Shelepak and Allison McGovern.  Plus, Mikayla Pourby was hurt all season and never played.  Once they settled in and figured out their lineup with Paige Rauch leading off, it was full speed ahead.

 

* As for next season, there simply is no replacing a talent like Rauch.  Here’s my most obvious statement of the day – “She’s good.”  Actually, she’s the top player in New York, and pretty much did it all for the Patriots.  Her power and patience at the plate (Horseheads walked her all four plate appearances in the Section IV championship) are unmatched.  She also calls her own game on the mound, and gave up only two runs in the last two games.  If you head over the Hall of Fame page, you’ll be seeing her name listed in the years to come.  The Patriots also lose Le Moyne bound Kaily LaForce, who quietly had another terrific season.  Those are two great leaders they’ll need to replace.  Hopefully Pourby will be back fully healthy, and there’s other seniors with plenty of big game experience back like Regan Ward, Maddie Brink, Sabrina LaBoudy, and Kayla Gassner.  The road is never easy for them, but the cupboard is far from bare either.  Let’s see who takes over all of those innings on the mound.  Then, we'll see if that talent is good enough to hold off Horseheads again, who lose Jenna Richmond, McKenna Mattison, and Jill Murray, but have plenty of more players ready to step in after barely losing in the STAC and Class AA championships this year.

 

* Susquehanna Valley claimed the Class B title before falling in the state quarterfinals to eventual champion Solvay.  Still, SV has a lot to look forward to in 2018.  They are losing one senior, albeit a very good one in catcher Erika Harder.  Returning will be fireballer Sophia Pappas, who is among the very best in the state.  She’s similar to Rauch and Hess in that she not only does everything on the mound for her team, but a whole lot at the plate as well.  Other notables returning will be Hannah Haskell, Shawna Zawiski, Sophie Keehle, and Madison Tuttle.  In this section, SV will always have to contend with Windsor, who are never going anywhere.  Other teams like Waverly and Chenango Forks had good seasons, and look to get over the hump.  If SV does repeat, then they thankfully don’t have to worry about Lauren Nichols of Solvay, who graduates, much to the relief of… well, everybody!  Anyone who outshines Pappas is the real deal, and she was that.  With Pappas back for more, along with much of her supporting cast, I look for the Sabers to be state title contenders next year.

 

* The final team is Elmira Notre Dame, winners of Class C.  They started the year 21-0, and were arguably the biggest favorite from this area to win a state championship.  Then they ran into Sandy Creek in the quarterfinals, and after a back-and-forth affair, suffered their first loss in a 6-3, 10-inning decision.  It’s not like Elmira ND lost it, Sandy Creek played with no fear and took it.  If you’re going to take down the state’s top team, that’s the way to do it.  For the Crusaders, there’s so much talent in the program, they should be just fine for 2018.  It starts on the mound with Izzy Milazzo.  She tossed a couple of no-hitters, and proved to be one of the state’s top players all season.  She’ll be a senior, which is great news for them.  Courtney Crater is also back, and is another terrific player entering her senior year.  A few others on their way back are Ally Wichtowski, Hannah Mahon, and Jordyn Fargo.  With talent like that, they’ll once again be the favorites to come out of this section.  But, since this is Class C, the road to the championship is much harder with plenty of schools to contend with.  Bainbridge-Guilford made the semi-finals with a very young team, and return nearly all of their top talent like Megan Palmatier, Kori Thonton, and Bree Barber.  Tioga returns a couple of great players in Mariah Culver and Maddy Dydynski.  Moravia and Odessa-Montour each have great pitchers in Maddie Funk and Grace Vondracek, respectively.  Anytime you have an ace on the mound, you have a shot at winning.  So, while I’d still favor Elmira ND, it’s not a sure thing at all.

6/6/17

 

* It’s the beginning of June, and the softball season all comes down to this weekend!  Right now, Section IV has three teams still alive, and they’re all looking to defend titles from last year: Binghamton (AA), Maine-Endwell (A), and Deposit (D).  Elmira Notre Dame lost 6-3 in a 10-inning thriller to Sandy Creek in the Class C State Quarterfinal, so unfortunately for them, they will not get the chance to repeat as champs.  Congrats to them on a terrific 21-1 season, including winning the IAC Large School and Class C championships.  Susquehanna Valley was edged 1-0 to a very good Solvay team.  They only graduate one senior, so you know they’ll be even stronger next season.

 

* Let’s look at the roads ahead for the Big 3 in Glens Falls this weekend.  All games will be on Saturday, with the championship coming later that day.  (For the sake of this blog entry, I will only preview the semi-final matchups these teams are in.  I don’t know nearly enough about the teams in the other semi-final games, so I won’t pretend that I do.)

 

* Class AA State Semi-final: Binghamton vs. Shaker, 11:30 am.  Winner plays East Meadow or Victor at 4 pm.  While Binghamton had to work a full game in taking down Yorktown 5-3, Shaker had their way from the beginning in beating Cicero-North Syracuse 8-1.  And here’s a very interesting note about that game – Shaker won the coin toss, yet chose to be the road team.  It worked.  They jumped up 4-0 right away, effectively killing off Cicero’s spirit before they even picked up a bat.  So if you follow the formula, you might not even need to do the coin toss on Saturday, because Binghamton will be the home team.  Right away, you see a key to the game – keeping Shaker off the board in the 1st.  In reading about this team, it appears as though the run they’re on now came out of nowhere, which means they’re playing loose and with a “nothing to lose” mentality, since they weren’t favored in the first place (they were only the #5 seed in Section II).  Binghamton, on the other hand, absolutely is the team to beat right now.  They didn’t start the year off too well, but have more than turned that around to go on their current run.  The Patriots need Paige Rauch to pitch like her normal self, and they need to get runners on and apply pressure to Shaker’s senior pitcher, Allie Lajeunesse, who just pitched a gem to get to this point.  Binghamton seems to get getting stronger and stronger each game, so their peak could come this weekend.  They are a very dangerous team.

 

* Class A State Semi-final: Maine-Endwell vs. MacArthur, 9 am.  Winner plays Jamesville-DeWitt or Williamsville East at 1:30 pm.  Similar to Binghamton, Maine-Endwell had to scratch and claw their way to a 2-0 win over Lakeland to advance to the semi-finals.  Their opponent, MacArthur, enjoyed a big 7-0 win over previously unbeaten (22-0) Mount Sinai.  MacArthur jumped out to a 5-0 lead, went through a lightning delay of 40 minutes, then picked up right where they left off when play resumed.  This win wasn’t a fluke, it was the real deal.  On paper, these two appear to be very similar to one another.  Each has a dominant starting pitcher coming off of a shutout (Emily Hess for M-E, Jessica Budrewicz for MacAthur), and offenses that can get big hits from any number of players.  MacArthur coach Bob Fehrenbach stated to LIHerald.com, “When it comes to offense we never know who’s going to come through.  It’s always someone different…It’s a whole team.”  Those comments may as well be contributed to M-E head coach Matt Raleigh too, because his Spartans can get you anywhere from the top to the bottom of the order.  M-E has plenty of momentum coming off of STAC, Section IV, and now a Regional championship.  But they’ll need to be ready to face a squad that just demolished one of the state’s top teams in Mount Sinai, as 22 straight wins went “poof” in a matter of hours.  M-E has proven all season long that they can win close games, and they’re absolutely battle tested.  If they keep their cool like they have all season long, they can keep rolling to another title.

 

* Class D State Semi-final: Deposit vs. Fort Ann, 11:30 am.  Winner plays North Collins or Heuvelton at 4 pm.  It’s fitting that these two teams meet, as when it comes to dominance in Class D, they’re both at the top of the list.  Deposit has won two straight state championships, and after surviving a wild, 9-inning, 7-5 win over Edmeston in the Section IV final, they held on to beat Eldred 5-3 to get back to the semi-finals.  Fort Ann defeated Crown Point 4-1, and they now head to their sixth straight semi-final.  That’s an amazing accomplishment.  The last time Deposit did not win a championship?  2014, when Fort Ann won it, downing Deposit 7-5 in the semi-finals.  It seems like everything is coming full circle.  Fort Ann got a two-hitter from Kayla Bailey in the quarterfinal, who also struck out 11.  Those are numbers that have become so common for Deposit’s Makenzie Stiles, people almost take it for granted at this point.  But let’s remember she’s only a sophomore, and has a ton of big game experience already at such a young age.  What’s encouraging for Deposit is that in games Stiles does not pitch a shutout, their offense is able to pick her up, as was the case against Edmeston, and somewhat against Eldred.  I don’t think any situation fazes Deposit anymore, as they are able to stay in the moment and do what they need to do to win.  Still, Fort Ann has to feel great about their chances, and might be the only team who can claim they’ve played in just as many big games as Deposit has the last few years.  I can’t wait to see how this one goes.

5/28/17

 

* Championship Saturday at BAGSAI is in the books.  Despite a passing shower that delayed the start of the early games by 45 minutes, the action was great all day long.  Let’s take a look back at each title game.

 

* Class AA: #3 Binghamton 2 - #1 Horseheads 0.  The first two games between these two teams saw a combined 31 runs.  Paige Rauch and Jenna Richmond made sure no such thing would happen again.  Through six innings, the game was scoreless, and it was hard to picture when either team would finally push a run across.  Perhaps this is where the experience Binghamton has gathered from recent state tournament runs came into play.  Kaily LaForce ended up with the game-winning RBI on a single to left, and Maddie Brink gave Rauch the all-important insurance run on a sac-fly.  Horseheads still had a great chance to get right back into it in the 7th, but ran into an out at home on a miscommunication.  A groundout to third later, and Binghamton celebrated the Three Peat.  Even though they’re a modest 13-7, they’ve stepped up more and more as the season has progressed, and know what it takes to keep winning in states.  Behind players like Rauch, LaForce, Brink, and Regan Ward, the Patriots will look to keep rolling.  As for Horseheads, they’ve had a very successful season in finishing at 14-4.  They came up just short in their two biggest games on the year, falling 2-1 to Maine-Endwell in the STAC championship, and 2-0 to Binghamton in the Class AA final.  They just couldn’t get those big hits they needed with runners on base, and when you’re matched up against terrific teams, it usually won’t be enough.  They still have plenty of talent coming back, and can always count on quality players stepping up and filling spots.  They’ve appeared in five of the past six Class AA finals, but have come up short each time.  They’ll look to reverse that trend next season.

 

* Class A: #1 Maine-Endwell 4 - #2 Vestal 0.  I’m not sure too many people gave Vestal much of a chance coming into this game, despite their impressive win over Johnson City in the semi-finals.  After all, M-E had won five straight sectional titles, and won the state title last year.  But this is where senior Lauren Lee deserves plenty of credit.  She might not have the same name value of other pitchers playing that day, but for five innings, she completely frustrated a loaded M-E offense.  Give credit to her solid defense as well, especially Taylor DuBois in center, who made a couple of nifty catches.  The only problem for Vestal was that they had to contend with Emily Hess, and she ended the game with three shutouts of the Golden Bears on the season.  The sixth inning saw an RBI double by Meredith Rose, a sac-fly RBI by Jackie Bigelow (who played JV this season), and a towering two-run bomb by the coach’s kid, Meaghan Raleigh.  The Spartans are similar to Binghamton in that they lost some big pieces from last year’s state championship team, but are playing great softball right now, and have to like their chances going forward.  As I’ve stated before, they are never out of a game because of their bats, and because Hess always finds ways to get it done.  Vestal showed a lot of moxie in this game, and even though they ended the season under .500, they played M-E tougher than nearly every other opponent of theirs this season.  They can be very satisfied with their effort.

 

* Class B: #1 Susquehanna Valley 4 - #2 Windsor 0.  Anytime you see that Windsor did not win a sectional title, well, it’s news.  After six straight championships dating back to 2011, including three over SV, the Sabers rode the arm of Sophia Pappas to finally get back on top after 10 years.  Pappas gave up a mere three hits and struck out 10, which for her has become a pretty “ho-hum” performance.  That’s just how nasty she’s been against her Class B counterparts this year.  After two innings, the score had already been decided at 4-0.  Pappas and Hannah Haskell, who was the hero with a walk-off in extra innings over Waverly in the semi-finals, each hit RBI doubles in the first.  An inning later, Shawna Zawiski plated a run on a single, and Sophie Keehle’s run-scoring double was all the Sabers needed on this day.  I figured Windsor would need to find some way to frustrate Pappas on the mound, and not let her beat them at the plate if they wanted to get the win.  Neither of those two things happened, so SV marches on.  As they’ve shown all season, they have a true ace on the mound who can carry them as far as she can take them.  What’s encouraging for them is seeing names like Haskell, Zawiski, Keehle, and Erika Harder stepping up and playing significant roles as well.  If you think this team is all about one person, they proved it is not.  That’s what will carry them far in states.  Windsor will have the unusual task of staying home at the start of June, but that’s a testament to just how dominant of a program they continue to be.  Nearly all of their postseason all-star picks were seniors last year, so perhaps just being back in this position to win another sectional championship shows how talented the younger players are.  They’ll be back.

 

* Class C: #1 Elmira Notre Dame 11 - #2 Union Springs 1.  The IAC Large School championship rematch ended up being over pretty quickly.  After Union Springs failed to capitalize on loading the bases in the first, Elmira ND seized upon the momentum and stunned the crowd by jumping up 5-0.  The big blow was by sophomore Jordyn Fargo, who launched a grand slam with two down off of superstar Grace Van Horn to all but end it for the Wolves.  That’s the same Fargo who homered in last season’s state championship game.  The Crusaders just kept on rolling from there, as Ally Wichtowski had four RBIs, and Izzy Milazzo had another terrific start on the mound by surrendering only four hits.  If there was ever any doubt who the best Class C team was coming into this game, Elmira ND more than erased that in no time.  The winning culture put together by head coach Steve Weber continues to breed success year after year.  I probably don’t need to tell you that they’re ready for states.  As for Union Springs, this game does not at all reflect just how great of a season they had.  Unfortunately for them, they ran into a giant buzz saw in Elmira ND, and a lack of playing on the big stage maybe had them more rattled than they normally would be.  (Yes, I’ve also been told that the strike zone was squeezing Van Horn to say the least.  Even someone as dominant as her is prone to being mentally off her game if she feels she’s not getting calls she’s gotten all season long.)  What Union Springs can be proud of is that this squad is the most successful one in school history, as they’ve never even appeared in a sectional title game until Saturday.  They are obviously a tight-knit community, as they brought a huge crowd out to BAGSAI.  So while the end result didn’t come close to what they were hoping, they can look back and be proud of the whole experience.

 

* Class D: #2 Deposit 7 - #1 Edmeston 5 in 9 innings.  Wow.  For anyone who came to BAGSAI on Saturday, I certainly hope you stayed to watch this one, as it was well worth the price of admission alone.  Raise your hand if you thought the score would be this high.  Don’t lie, because there should be zero hands raised.  I’ll pat myself a bit on the back for saying these two lines in my game preview on Friday: “The top two Class D teams arguably in all of the state will clash in what should be another classic.”  “Forget about these being the smallest schools playing at BAGSAI, this will be a very high-quality game no matter what the enrollment is.”  A classic it indeed was, as it turned out to be the Game of the Year.  Edmeston had Deposit on the ropes, which has rarely happened for the past three years.  A two-run laser out to left by Catherine Johnson put her Panthers up 4-2 in the 5th, and for the first time had people believing that the Lumberjacks really could be beaten.  But, the next two innings wasn’t about Edmeston blowing the lead, it was all about Deposit refusing to die.  Rachel Davis and Alea Tiffany each had RBI singles in the 6th and 7th, respectfully, to pull Deposit even.  Edmeston had a great opportunity to win on a walk-off in the bottom of the 7th (they were the home team), but after a single and two intentional walks by Stiles to bypass giving Johnson and Sarah Lawrence chances to be the heroes, Edmeston struck out twice to send it to extras.  In the 9th, Deposit showed their championship pedigree when sisters Bryn and Kyra Martin combined for RBI singles, and another run came on a pitch that got away from Lawrence at home.  Edmeston didn’t go down quietly, scoring a run on a double by Johnson, but she was left stranded at third as Stiles got her 14th K of the day, one more than Johnson.  Bryn Martin said it perfectly by commenting to the Press, “This should have been the state championship game.”  Last year showed that Section IV was the toughest test for Deposit, as they won their next three games by a combined score of 25-0 in claiming their third overall state championship.  I would say it’s unrealistic to expect such dominance again… but this is Deposit, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit.  Edmeston finishes the season with five straight Tri-Valley championships, and two straight heartbreaking, narrow, extra inning losses in the sectional championship.  There’s no other team who’s taken it to Deposit like they have.  A play or two here or there, and it could very easily be them who are preparing for another state championship run.  They’ll unfortunately be hit very hard by graduation, as Johnson and Lawrence are both seniors.  It’s nearly impossible to state just how much those two have meant to the program.  The Panthers can all hold their heads up high and be proud of all they have done.  I just wish these two teams could play a Best of Seven!

5/26/17

 

* It’s championship weekend!  After two months of action, the five biggest games of the Section IV season are upon us this Saturday at BAGSAI.  Let’s take a look at all five games.

 

* Class AA Championship: #1 Horseheads vs. #3 Binghamton, 4 pm.  It’s been a month since these two teams traded wins in back-to-back days.  Horseheads got the first win at home 11-3, and Binghamton came back a day later at their place and won 9-8.  In the first tilt, Jenna Richmond went the distance and added three hits, and sister Alli Richmond had five RBIs with three doubles.  A day later, Kaily LaForce’s walk-off single gave Binghamton the nod.  Paige Rauch chipped in with a homer, one of her many long bombs on the season (I’ve lost count).  Each team is coming off of wins in which they put up 10 runs on good teams: Horseheads beat Corning 10-6, Binghamton beat Elmira 10-5.  So, in tallying everything up, it’s hard to find who has the edge.  Is it Binghamton by getting the home game at BAGSAI?  Or is it Horseheads based on the better overall record (14-3 vs. 12-7)?  There’s also the revenge factor for Horseheads, as they’ve dropped two straight Class AA finals to Binghamton.  Horseheads seems to get plenty of production up and down their lineup, and with depth like theirs, anyone is capable of stepping up and having a big day.  Binghamton needs a big game from Rauch, who has shown time and time again that she’s the person for the job.  If Rauch can limit the Blue Raiders’ baserunners, and swing a hot bat, then Binghamton has to feel great about their chances.  One thing to remember for the Patriots is that they’ve been without the services of Mikayla Pourby all season, who’s been hurt.  Her bat in a game like this would’ve been huge.  I wouldn’t expect a repeat of last year’s 15-1 Binghamton shellacking, a game that saw the unfortunately injury of Jill Murray, which no doubt drained the life right out of Horseheads.  After months of hard work, she’s back, and will look to put Horseheads back on top for the first time since 2009.

 

* Class A Championship: #1 Maine-Endwell vs. #2 Vestal, 2 pm.  These teams have played each other twice, with M-E winning one by a nail biter, and the other by a blowout.  The first game was a pure pitching duel between M-E’s Emily Hess and Vestal’s Lauren Lee, and M-E got the win thanks to a couple of errors in the 7th.  The second game was not nearly as close, as M-E won 12-0 behind homers from Brooke Singer and Meaghan Raleigh, and Hess going the distance with eight punchouts.  Recent history would seem to favor M-E.  They’re coming off of two solid wins in the STAC playoffs, downing Chenango Forks 3-0 and Horseheads 2-1, and then defeating Owego 7-2 in the semi-finals.  They have impact hitters all throughout their lineup, and have the stud on the mound in Hess.  They can win by scoring in double-digits, or in pitchers’ duels.  Vestal, on the other hand, shook off the beatdown they got from M-E to defeat a very good Johnson City team at home in the semi-finals, 3-1.  Lee was terrific in holding a 15-win team down, giving up one hit while striking out 12.  If anything, she showed that her team has a lot of fight, and has used that bad loss to M-E as motivation to get better in the couple of weeks since.  I would still favor M-E, because they have stepped up in big games all season long, and appear more than ready to make another run in states.  For Vestal to have a chance, they need the Lee who shut down JC to show up and keep the game close.

 

* Class B Championship: #1 Susquehanna Valley vs. #2 Windsor, 2 pm.  Another rematch of a championship last year is in Class B, as Windsor got the win 5-3.  Windsor had a team full of impact seniors, and to quote SV coach Karen Bidwell after the loss: “We’re really young” (said to the Press & Sun-Bulletin).  Fast forward a year later, and to the surprise of very few, both teams are right back at it.  Both split games during the season, with SV winning the first 5-2, and Windsor winning 2-0 more recently.  In the first game, SV superstar Sophia Pappas gave up four hits, struck out 11, and added two runs and two RBIs at the plate.  That came one day after she struck out all 15 Seton batters in a five-inning perfect game.  The next time around, Jen Ross gave up three hits in a shutout, and Windsor got good days at the plate from Alli Smith and Amber Cina.  The key to this game is Pappas, as the Binghamton University commit has shown she can do it on both sides of the field.  For Windsor, they know they’ll have to take advantage of any opportunities they might get with runners on base.  They also can’t let Pappas beat them at the plate as well, as time and time again this season, she’s been the star both on the mound and in the batter’s box.  SV has played in many low-scoring games of late, and needed a walk-off two-run homer by Hannah Haskell to defeat a very tough Waverly squad to advance.  Windsor got revenge on Chenango Forks 4-2, 10 days after losing 12-3 to them in the STAC East tiebreaker.  I’d expect a close, low-scoring game.  If Windsor can’t find a way to hold Pappas down, then it will be very difficult for them to repeat as Class B champs.

 

* Class C Championship: #1 Elmira Notre Dame vs. #2 Union Springs, 2 pm.  Here we go again, as the two teams in Class C and the IAC each held serve.  This will be a rematch of the IAC Large School championship, which Elmira ND won 2-0.  Right now the Crusaders are sitting at a perfect 20-0, and are the defending state champions.  Simply put, despite losing some great players from last year, they’ve found a way to stay just as strong this year, if not even better.  They ran right through Sidney and a good Bainbridge-Guilford team to get back to this point.  Union Springs is making their first ever appearance in this game.  They won a couple of closer games against Seton and Tioga.  The Tioga win was especially big considering the Tigers pulled the upset of Edison in the quarterfinals.  Needless to say, this has been a season for the ages.  A question has to be asked: Is Union Springs just happy to be here, or hungry for more?  There’s a big difference between the two.  The revenge factor is in play for Union Springs, as they’ve dropped both games to Elmira ND this season.  In the IAC championship, Izzy Milazzo gave up three hits and added an RBI infield single.  Grace Van Horn, the ace for Union Springs, pitched six shutout innings after the first despite only having two strikeouts.  That was unusual for her, and doubtful to happen again, as she’s one of the true stars on the mound in Section IV, and in all of the state for that matter.  What Union Springs has to hope for is to either scratch out a lead or be tied going into the late innings.  The pressure would then be squarely on Elmira ND, as they haven’t suffered a setback all season long.  But just getting a lead against them will be very hard to do.  If Van Horn can avoid the tough first inning that she had in the IAC championship and finds her groove, this could very well be a toss-up.  Elmira ND will rely on their deep lineup to build an early lead and go from there.

 

* Class D Championship: #1 Edmeston vs. #2 Deposit, 4 pm.  Was there ever any doubt these two would bump into each other again at BAGSAI?  The top two Class D teams arguably in all of the state will clash in what should be another classic.  Last season, it was indeed just that, as both teams were scoreless through seven innings.  In the 8th, Deposit’s Kyra Martin stepped up and cranked a walk-off two-run homer to give the Lumberjacks the nod.  That propelled them to breeze through the state tournament, which made Edmeston by far their toughest opponent.  This year, it’s more of the same, as Edmeston’s Catherine Johnson and Deposit’s Makenzie Stiles continue to dazzle on the mound.  Edmeston is undefeated, and Deposit has only suffered setbacks in their three games against much bigger schools.  So which team has the advantage?  Well, arguments can be made for both sides.  Deposit is the reigning champs, and have played a tougher schedule this year thanks to some improved teams in the MAC, and their non-league schedule.  Edmeston, however, gets to be the home team.  That puts them in the position to have last licks, which Martin and Deposit took full advantage of last year.  This year, it could be someone like Sarah Lawrence or Rachel Greene who plays the role of hero for Edmeston.  At the plate, both teams get production up and down the lineup, but against such talented pitchers like Johnson and Stiles, that will be neutralized quite a bit.  Picking a winner in this is darn near impossible, but despite being the road team, I would give the slight edge to Deposit based on their performances in big games.  Edmeston, though, has had quite awhile to think about what could have been, as the Class D state championship could very well have been theirs had they gotten by Deposit last year.  Forget about these being the smallest schools playing at BAGSAI, this will be a very high-quality game no matter what the enrollment is.

5/21/17

 

* We are underway in the Main Event of the softball season – the Section IV Tournament.  Let’s take a look at how each of the five classes are shaping up so far.

 

* Class AA.  Four teams are in, and it’ll be Horseheads vs. Corning, and Binghamton vs. Elmira.  Horseheads comes in off of a close STAC Championship loss to Maine-Endwell.  They survived scare after scare from Susquehanna Valley in the semi-finals, then found a hard time cashing in with runners on base themselves a day later against M-E.  Corning played Horseheads tough earlier in the season, dropping a 4-3 decision in which Lexie Easling’s two-run homer in the 7th made it very interesting.  The most recent game was Horseheads winning 11-6 as Jenna Richmond, Maiah Skakel, and Abby Packard all went off at the plate.  It’s a rivalry game, so the old saying of “toss the records out the window” probably holds true.  Binghamton had a terrific end to the season in which they beat Horseheads and M-E.  The one team that’s had their number this year?  Elmira, the team they draw in the semis.  In Binghamton’s first game of the season, Elmira stormed back in the 7th to win 5-4, then Elmira won again 6-5 a couple weeks ago in which they held on after jumping up 6-0.  For Elmira, they have the confidence that they can take down the defending state champions, though it will remain to be seen how they respond after losing to Union-Endicott and Waverly last week.  Binghamton will look for revenge by getting a big road win, then returning home for the championship at their home site of BAGSAI.

 

* Class A.  Maine-Endwell, fresh off of their first ever STAC championship, earned the top seed and will be opposed by Owego.  Owego has had an interesting season.  Their record is under .500, but they have wins over Elmira and Windsor, and were edged by Chenango Forks and Susquehanna Valley by two runs apiece recently.  They have the tall task of going to M-E, as the Spartans will begin their state title defense.  M-E has all sorts of momentum, having defeating Horseheads twice of late.  It’s hard to see them falling after how sharp they’ve played lately.  The other matchup will be Johnson City traveling to Vestal.  Johnson City has a much better record, but since Vestal gets the luxury of playing bigger schools throughout the season, they earned more points and the home game.  Say what you want about it, but that’s the way it goes.  Johnson City had a stretch in which they won 10 straight in the middle of the season, and have beaten Windsor and Chenango Forks twice each.  Vestal had a bit of a disappointing season by their standards, and have dropped games to Elmira, Binghamton, and M-E of late.  They did take down Binghamton 5-4 in nine innings earlier in the season.  Johnson City may be the away team, but they go into this as the favorite.

 

* Class B.  Only five teams qualified, so it’ll be Oneonta vs. Waverly in the quarterfinals with the winner going to Susquehanna Valley, and Chenango Forks and Windsor playing once again in the other semi.  Waverly is the lone “non-STAC” school to break into this bracket, and they are coming off of a terrific 4-3, comeback win over Elmira.  But, like Johnson City in the Class A bracket, Waverly gets victimized by their schedule and will have to travel all the way to Oneonta despite having a better record.  They won five of their last six, most of them by blowout.  Oneonta gets the home game, and have been playing very well lately.  They lost to SV 1-0, then followed that up with two non-league wins, including a 10-1 drubbing of Afton.  That will be a very interesting game, with Susquehanna Valley awaiting the winner and looking to continue their great season with Sophia Pappas leading them on the mound.  Forks and Windsor are no strangers to each other, as this will be their fourth meeting of the season.  Forks got a big 12-3 win in Windsor in the East division tiebreaker to get into the STAC playoffs.  There’s not a game this season in which they haven’t had a chance to win, as their losses have all been close.  Windsor will get a second crack at winning a big home game against the Blue Devils.  Talent-wise, these teams are as even a matchup as you can find.  Mentally, the edge is with Forks based on their recent success.  However, going to Windsor and winning twice about a week apart will not be an easy accomplishment.  I’d expect this result to be much closer.

 

* Class C.  The quarterfinals are all set, and goes as follows: Sidney vs. Elmira Notre Dame, Moravia vs. Bainbridge-Guilford, Tioga vs. Edison, and Seton vs. Union Springs.  The favorite, which should not be questioned at all, is Elmira ND.  They’re the premier team in all of the state, having won the Class C state championship last year, and running their record to 18-0 and winning the IAC Large School championship this year.  Deep and talented are two words to describe them.  Sidney won a slugfest over Harpursville to advance, and have put up double digits in six straight games.  They’re going to need more hot bats if they want to push Elmira ND to the limit.  Moravia held off Greene after resuming a suspended game on Friday.  They’ve had a good season, but you have to wonder if they’ve fully recovered from getting pounded by Tioga in the IAC Small School championship game, 15-1.  That was a pretty shocking result.  B-G is having a historic season, as they gave Deposit a tough game in the MAC championship, and have beaten every other team not named the Lumberjacks this season.  Plus, making Moravia travel to them is an advantage.  I really like the Tioga and Edison matchup, as each team knows each other well in the IAC.  Earlier in the season, Bella Willsey led Edison to an 11-0 shellacking over Tioga.  But, after winning the Small School title and holding off Odessa-Montour in the first round, Tioga has to be feeling pretty good about their chances.  Edison has the unfortunate distinction of being in the same division (South Large) as Elmira ND, so even with a terrific record, fly a bit under the radar.  They’re a very good team, though, and will be a tough out.  Seton pulled the upset win in Groton to advance against Union Springs.  In looking at records, it’s not even close, as Union Springs has a whole lot more W’s.  Seton, however, does play bigger schools during the season, and you can see how those experiences paid off for them against the smaller school in Groton.  Union Springs has the ace on the mound in Grace Van Horn, and she nearly led her team to a victory over Elmira ND in the Large School championship, losing 2-0.  That’s the Wolves’ only blemish of the season.  It won’t be easy, but Union Springs is the favorite to take care of business at home.

 

* Class D.  Like the C’s, the quarterfinals are locked in: Marathon vs. Edmeston, Schenevus vs. Laurens, Southern Cayuga vs. Hancock, and Afton vs. Deposit.  Edmeston is unbeaten on the season, and quite frankly, unchallenged as well.  They blew right through Laurens to win the Tri-Valley championship, then drubbed Roxbury to advance, with Catherine Johnson recording her 1,000th career strikeout.  Talk about incredible!  Marathon was up-and-down this season, then absolutely destroyed the Delaware champions Davenport in round one, 18-1.  That was very impressive.  They’ll look to take down another league champion, though this one will be much, much harder.  Schenevus and Laurens have each had very good seasons, which is what makes this game so much fun to watch.  The Tri-Valley school each split against each other, again showing how tight this is.  Laurens followed up their loss to Edmeston in the championship by creaming Margaretville 25-3 in the first round.  Schenevus had to work extra hard to hold off Worcester 5-4.  With Laurens being the home team, perhaps the slight edge is in their favor.  Southern Cayuga was one of two lower-seeded teams to pull off upset wins (Seton over Groton was the other), as they went to Downsville and won 12-5.  They’ve played some good competition in the IAC this year, taking their lumps along the way, but clearly being ready when it came time for the beginning of sectionals because of it.  Hancock has had a great season, and after getting shutout by Bainbridge-Guilford 10-0 in the MAC semi-finals, bounced right back by being Afton in the consolation, and then Gilboa in the first round.  They’ll get the home cooking and look to advance past the “Cinderella” team.  Finally, how about the last matchup between Afton and Deposit?  Both teams have owned the MAC and Class D for years.  Deposit is the favorite this year, as their only losses have come against much bigger schools, and Afton has uncharacteristically hovered around .500.  In the MAC semi-finals, Afton did play Deposit tough in a 6-3 loss, so they’ll look to build on that.  Deposit is so deep and talented, just staying in any game with them is hard to do.

5/17/17

 

* STAC Championship Preview: Horseheads at Maine-Endwell, 5 pm.  The two home teams took care of business in the semi-finals, as Horseheads defeated Susquehanna Valley 3-1, and Maine-Endwell beat Chenango Forks 3-0.  It wasn’t easy for either team, but for Horseheads, they had to find ways to escape one jam after another.  In fact, SV had the bases loaded in each of the first three innings, but could only push one run across the plate.  Jenna Richmond took over for an unusually shaky Juliana Rich in the third, and really gave a boost.  Jill Murray drove in all three runs.  Over at M-E, it was once again the Emily Hess show, as she held a team that just put up 12 runs on Windsor scoreless a day later.  That’s no easy feat.  Alexis Wanchisen chipped in with a two-run homer.  Now it’s back to the matchup most people would’ve guessed.  In their first game, it was Richmond’s three-run homer that was the difference in a 4-3 Horseheads win.  Recently, M-E got revenge 6-1, as they got contributions across the board, and a four-hitter from Hess.  If you’re looking for who has the edge, the home team has won each game, and it’s M-E hosting this one.  Both teams are 13-2, with loses to each other and Binghamton.  Each offense puts up bunches of runs, so that’s pretty even.  On the mound, you’d have to lean towards Hess, who is the clear Alpha Dog for M-E pitching.  For Horseheads, you’d have to wonder if Rich will get the call to start again (very possible), or someone like Richmond or McKenna Mattison.  Or who knows, maybe someone else on a team as deep as theirs.  Neither team winning would be a surprise, but the slight advantage goes with M-E on paper, based on playing at home and starting pitching.  Can’t wait to see how this shakes out.

5/16/17

* Central champion Susquehanna Valley at West champion Horseheads: This will be a good challenge for both teams, as Horseheads features a deep lineup, and SV has the ace on the mound in Sophia Pappas.  Horseheads can win by out-hitting their opponents, or getting solid starts on the mound by Juliana Rich and McKenna Mattison.  For SV, they rely on pitching to get them through, as Pappas has two no-hitters this year, and a 5-inning perfect game in which she struck out all 15 Seton hitters on April 24.  You simply can’t do better than that.  SV dropped a 2-0 decision to Windsor to open May, but have been unbeaten since, including a win over East champion Chenango Forks.  Pappas has to do a lot for them, as the Binghamton University commit needs to keep names like Abby Packard, Jenna and Alli Richmond, Alissa Rice, Maiah Skakel, Tess Cites, and other great hitters for Horseheads off the bases.  Pappas also is the main RBI producer at the plate.  For comparison’s sake, SV did drop a game to Binghamton in the Mary Testa Tournament 9-4, a game in which Paige Rauch and Kailey LaForce homered.  Horseheads has split with Binghamton and Maine-Endwell, and swept big schools like Elmira, Corning, Vestal, and Union-Endicott.  If Pappas is on her game, and she rarely is not, this will be a tight game.  SV started off the year scoring more runs, including eight runs twice against a solid Johnson City team, but has mostly relied on low-scoring wins.  Horseheads has more weapons at the plate, and has some quality one-run victories, which shows they can win when the pressure is on.   

 

* East champion Chenango Forks at Metro champion Maine-Endwell: Forks earned their way to this game by taking out Windsor 12-3 on Windsor’s home turf.  That was certainly impressive, as Forks has been building momentum all year, and Windsor recently defeated Central champion Susquehanna Valley 2-0.  Now, the competition keeps getting tougher, as Maine-Endwell will get the home game after winning the Metro division.  M-E comes in more than ready after beating West champion Horseheads 6-1 a few days ago, plus a couple thrashings of Vestal and Ithaca.  They’ve shown they can win by out-slugging teams, or take the close ones with good pitching (such as the 2-1 victory over Elmira in eight innings).  Forks will look to ride their momentum, and once again play their best game on the road, something they just did on Monday.  Can they again step up and beat a very good team on the road?  Maybe it’s a good thing they get to play the very next day, as they want to ride their positive play.  M-E’s Emily Hess will look to keep a good team off balance at the plate, something she does with regularity.  M-E has proven all season long why they’re the #1 ranked Class A team in the state, with big wins over Binghamton, Elmira, Corning, and Horseheads.  M-E comes in the favorite, but Forks has a lot of heart, and certainly won't wilt against the pressure of playing a great team.  Like the other semi-final, this should be a very good game.

5/14/17

 

* There’s been four championship games in the books, with two more to come (keep in mind, the IAC plays a Large and Small School championship).  Let’s review what’s already happened, and preview what will go down this week.

 

* MAC Championship: Deposit 2 – Bainbridge-Guilford 0.  I predicted a close game, and it happened.  Then again, it’s easy to predict a close game when Makenzie Stiles and Kori Thornton are on the mound.  So don’t give me too much credit.  Stiles was simply sensational, striking out 16 in a one-hitter, which didn’t come until B-G’s superstar Megan Palmatier singled in the 7th.  Bryn Martin was the other hero for Deposit, as her two-run homer with two down in the 3rd was all the Lumberjacks needed.  For Deposit, it’s back-to-back MAC titles, and considering they’re chasing down their third consecutive Class D state title, it shows how good the top teams in the MAC are.  For B-G, the result was disappointing, but it has to be considered at least somewhat of a positive.  It was their first ever championship appearance (the MAC formed in 2002), and to be right there against the best Class D team in the state shows that they can make a run in sectionals in Class C.  Something to build on.

 

* IAC Large School Championship: Elmira Notre Dame 2 – Union Springs 0.  Two early runs for the Crusaders held up all the way through, as Izzy Milazzo allowed three hitters to reach base all game.  She can thank the slick gloves behind her, as The Ithaca Journal’s Matt Weinstein remarked that Courtney Carter “made several great plays at shortstop and senior third baseman Mackenzie Maloney was solid again on the hot corner.”  Union Springs had hoped to start a rally in the 7th, but was the victim of an overturned call on an infield single by Telona White that became an out.  Grace Van Horn put up blanks after the 1st inning, and was helped by her defense as well with only two strikeouts.  But against a loaded team like Elmira ND, a two-run deficit might feel like 12.  Both teams are in Class C, so don’t be surprised if they lock horns for a third time this year.

 

* IAC Small School Championship: Tioga 15 – Moravia 1.  Wow.  I was wrong about a couple of things in this.  I thought it would be a close game, and clearly it was not.  I also thought the pitching matchup would be Madalyn Dydynski vs. Maddie Funk.  Well, I was half right, as Funk got the ball for Moravia, but it was junior Mariah Culver, a Caldwell University commit, who was on the mound for Tioga.  Culver responded with 13 strikeouts, and was one out away from a no-hitter.  Dydynski still left her mark, as the game was scoreless into the 3rd, when she legged out an infield single to open the floodgates.  An inside-the-park home run by Sara Strong soon made it 6-0, and an eight run 5th pushed it up to 15-0.  For Tioga, it’s four straight Small School titles, and six of the last eight.  For Moravia, they’re clearly a much better team than the score indicates, as maybe this was just one of those days where they didn’t have it, and the other team obviously did.  They have to put this behind them to get ready for sectionals.

 

* Delaware Championship: Davenport 8 – Downsville 7.  Perhaps the most exciting championship game was in the Delaware League.  A day after beating Gilboa 9-7 to reach the title game, Downsville was unable to hold onto a 6-1 lead in the 6th, and lost on a walk-off double by Justine Lubbers.  Lubbers also had a two-run double the inning before to cut the deficit to 6-3.  The close result should hardly be surprising, as Davenport won 3-2 back on April 14. Lexi Cobb, who had five strikeouts in the first meeting, ended up starting, getting pulled after the 4th, only to return in the 6th and get the win.  That’s now two straight Delaware titles for Davenport, who beat Downsville last year as well, 16-8.

 

* Tri-Valley Championship Preview: Edmeston vs. Laurens, Monday 5/15 at Oneonta: Laurens will try to do what no one else has been able to accomplish this season – beating the four-time defending Tri-Valley champions.  Edmeston ran right through the regular season, ending it with a 19-0 drubbing of Gilbertsville-Mount Upton.  Laurens got a taste of Edmeston back on May 4, but 16 strikeouts by Catherine Johnson and a two-run homer by Sarah Lawrence led Edmeston to an 8-2 victory.  Laurens is capable of putting up big numbers, as they scored 21 on Delaware champion Davenport earlier this season, then 33 recently against G-MU.  It goes without saying that those teams didn’t have the likes of Johnson on the mound, though.  For Laurens to stand a chance, they’ll need a big start from whomever they choose to put on the mound (they’ve used a few different pitchers as starters), and find some ways to get runners on and create noise on the base paths.  Edmeston has a superstar in Johnson, but is a much deeper team than just one person.  They’ve scored double-digits in nearly every game, which shows how hot they can get at the plate.  It’ll be a tall task for Laurens on Monday.

 

* STAC East Division Tiebreaker Preview: Chenango Forks vs. Windsor, Monday 5/15 at Windsor:  A couple weeks ago I speculated that Forks would need to keep winning and get some help in order to overtake Windsor and win the East.  They didn’t win it, but they did tie it.  Back on April 24, Forks took down Windsor 9-5 in a game that wasn’t covered by any local media, so I don’t have specifics.  I do know that the first meeting between the two was on April 10 and won by Windsor 8-7 on a walk-off single by Bailey Morgan.  That game saw Windsor score five in the 5th.  Forks has rattled off four straight wins after narrowly losing to Susquehanna Valley 2-1.  Windsor started the year red hot, then cooled down some, only to win three of their last four, including a 2-0 decision over SV.  Both teams are pretty evenly matched, as each offense has shown the ability to put up runs on one another.  Don’t be surprised to see another tight game going into the bottom of the 7th, and with Windsor as the home team, they get the slight advantage.

 

* Once the East Division for STAC is settled, I’ll be back early in the week to preview the STAC playoffs.  Right now it’s the winner of Forks and Windsor going to Maine-Endwell, and Susquehanna Valley at Horseheads, both on Tuesday.  The winners will go play at the site of the smaller school for the championship on Wednesday.  Dare I say they’ll also get the luxury of beautiful weather, which KO’d the whole thing from happening on Saturday at Chenango Valley?  Sure looks that way!

5/10/17

* League title pictures are becoming clearer, so let’s take a look at some of the matchups on the horizon.

 

* MAC Championship: Bainbridge-Guilford vs. Deposit.  The top two seeds took care of business at home in the semi-finals, as B-G walloped Hancock 10-0, and Deposit held off Afton 6-3.  A couple things of note: Makenzie Stiles set a school record with her 715th strikeout… and she’s a sophomore.  Whoa!  With a little over two years left still, it’s crazy to think about what that number will jump up to.  For B-G, 8th grader Bree Barber hit two home runs in the semi-final win, while junior Megan Palmatier started things off with a three-run blast in the 1st.  B-G has one loss this season, and it was to Deposit at home, 7-1.  Anyone who goes against Deposit has to first contend with Stiles, then find a way to hold off a potent offense.  If B-G can get a big start from Kori Thornton, who pitched another gem on Tuesday, then find a way to get runners on and move them over, they have a chance.  For Deposit, they just have to stick with what got them there: pitching and timely hitting.  It’s a formula that’s worked for them for quite awhile.  If any team is up to the challenge, however, it’s B-G, who continue to get one big win after another.  Should be a great one.

 

* IAC Large School Championship: Elmira Notre Dame vs. Union Springs.  In a regular season tune-up for both teams, Elmira ND got the nod 7-0 on Tuesday.  Just as I suspected, Union Springs’ ace Grace Van Horn did not start, as she came in relief a couple of times according to the box score.  Elmira ND has pretty much rolled right through everybody, as they’ve more than proven why they’re the defending Class C state champions.  It’s hard to hold down their offense, and with Izzy Milazzo on the mound, good luck trying to push runs across.  Union Springs is certainly used to winning themselves, and it all starts with the stud on the mound, Van Horn.  Anytime you have someone who can hold big bats down, your odds of winning increase.  It’s not a stretch to think that the first team to score has a much bigger chance of winning than normal.  Both teams have won their fair share of blowouts, but have also shown they can win nail biters against good teams as well (Elmira ND beating Edison 5-4, Union Springs beating Moravia 3-0).  We’ll see who blinks first.

 

* IAC Small School Championship: Tioga vs. Moravia.  Like the Large School title, this will be a matchup of two aces on the mound – Tioga’s Madalyn Dydynski and Moravia’s Maddie Funk.  Both have thrown no-hitters, and both have more strikeouts than I can count.  Tioga has bounced back from a tough showing in the Mary Testa Tournament at Maine-Endwell to absolutely thrash a solid Odessa-Montour team in a doubleheader on Tuesday.  As for Moravia, it was business as usual in beating Trumansburg, as Funk again impressed.  Take away a couple of loses to Union Springs, and Moravia is flawless on the year.  In looking at recent results, Moravia has continued to win, but their offense has been held in check the last three games for the most part.  Tioga just came off of scoring 26 runs in a doubleheader, and that’s in shortened games.  They certainly won’t get that against Funk, but it does show they’re swinging the bats with confidence.  This game is eerily similar to the Large School game, in that the first team to score has to feel good about their chances.  Let’s see who can push that run across first.

5/7/17

* The regular season is wrapping up, as some teams are getting ready for league playoffs.  Others are waiting for sectionals to start next week, so they’ll look to keep sharp with scrimmages.  And others are simply done for the year, as the seniors have played their last games.  It’s always a strange feeling when it’s all done.

 

* The MAC playoffs are all set.  On Tuesday, Afton visits Deposit, and Hancock goes to Bainbridge-Guilford.  The winners face the next day in the league championship.  These should be exciting games, as all four teams can make a case for winning it all.  Of course, the road goes through Deposit, as their only setbacks this year have come against much bigger schools in tournaments.  Against schools their size, they’ve been untouchable.  Afton just dropped a 9-0 decision to them on Thursday, and have been in a bit of a funk lately in also losing to Johnson City, Harpursville, and Hancock.  If they take down Deposit, that will be quite the upset.  But they are Afton, so nothing would be a surprise.

 

* Bainbridge-Guilford vs. Hancock is a fun matchup.  B-G defeated Hancock 6-3 back on April 26.  That was a rare setback for Hancock, as they’ve taken care of everyone not named Deposit and B-G.  For B-G, they’re in the midst of their best season ever.  Kori Thornton has put some impressive numbers on the mound as of late.  Head coach Randy Palmatier commented to the Evening Sun, “Best record ever for B-G.  The girls have worked very hard this season to earn their 15-1 record.  It’s nice to see all their off-season efforts pay off in the regular season.”  For Hancock, Mikayla Kravetsky will have her hands full on the mound in holding down the B-G offense, but she has found a way to step up all season.

 

* The IAC Large School Championship is shaping up to be a good one.  Defending IAC and Class C state champs Elmira Notre Dame will put their perfect record on the line against unbeaten Union Springs on Thursday at Cornell.  As a warmup, both teams will play a regular season game on Tuesday in Elmira.  Union Springs has quite the tough week ahead, as they play Moravia on Monday before the two games against Elmira ND.  Tuesday’s game will be interesting since it has no impact on the championship game.  Will both teams use regular lineups?  Will Izzy Milazzo of Elmira and Grace Van Horn of Union Springs still start on the mound?  Home field advantage is not on the line since Thursday’s game is at a neutral field.  I’ll be very curious to see how Tuesday plays out.

 

* For the IAC Small School Championship, Tioga will be taking on Moravia on Thursday at Cornell.  As is the case for pretty much every other dominant team, there will be a couple of aces taking center stage: Tioga's Madalyn Dydynski and Moravia's Maddie Funk.  Dydynski has a couple of no-hitters this year, while Funk has one that included 16 strikeouts.  If you're looking at which team has more momentum, that would be Moravia with a 10-game winning streak.  Tioga competed in a really tough Mary Testa Tournament over at Maine-Endwell a week ago, and came away with zero runs in two games.  Still, with both pitchers doing what they do, I would expect a close game.

 

* In the Tri-Valley, it’s Edmeston in clear control and awaiting the championship game on Monday, May 15 in Oneonta.  Based on the results I’ve received, Laurens, Schenevus, and Worcester appear to be in play for the other slot.  Laurens and Worcester will tangle on Tuesday, and Schenevus will have Edmeston the same day.  Earlier this season, Laurens and Schenevus have each split a game with each other.

 

* For the Delaware league, the top teams are Davenport, Downsville, Margaretville, and Roxbury.  The championship game is set for Thursday.  Once I find out more information about this, I will be sure to post an update.

 

* The STAC playoffs are set for Saturday, May 13 at Chenango Valley.  Tuesday will feature a huge game between Binghamton and Maine-Endwell at BAGSAI.  M-E already has the nod over Binghamton earlier this season with a 4-0 win.  Both teams have two games left in addition to this, so one would think Binghamton would need to run the table and get some help to win the Metro division.

 

* Horseheads is in control of the STAC West.  Their only blemish of the season came in a 9-8 defeat to Binghamton.  In the Central, Susquehanna Valley has the edge over Johnson City, thanks to two victories over the Wildcats earlier this season.  JC has certainly been on a roll, however, with nine straight wins.  They’ll be a dangerous team in sectionals.  Finally, in the East, Windsor holds the advantage over Chenango Forks.  Each have split a game against one another.  Windsor started the season red hot, but have been a little up and down lately.  They did get a huge victory over Susquehanna Valley this week, before losing by one to JC.  Forks had a narrow 2-1 loss to SV.

 

* When all championship games are set, I will be back during the week to give a preview of each.  It’s an exciting time of year for high school softball fans!  Let’s just hope the weather stays dry!

 

* A few reminders about the site.  On the front page, I have scores and links to articles for all the games I’ve found this season.  An individual breakdown of each team’s results can be found on the 2017 Scores page.  Please keep in mind that while the results are official, I know I don’t have every single score listed.  I can only list what I’ve either read about or been told on Twitter or Email.  Once again, a big thanks to all of those who’ve reached out to me with scores.  It’s much appreciated!  Also, to the many local media members who post results in timely fashion.

 

* I also added a No-Hitters page.  What makes Section IV standout from the rest is the incredible studs on the mound, so I figured it was only appropriate to dedicate an entire page to it.  By my count there’s been 16 no-hitters (including four perfect games) this season.  If you know of another, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  There’s been many more dominant pitchers this season who don’t have no-hitters, such as Emily Hess, Paige Rauch, Jen Ross, Lyndsey Stone, and Juliana Rich.  I’m sure there’s more out there as well.  The bottom line remains the same – teams can more than separate themselves with an ace on the mound.

4/30/17

* Last week I looked at division leaders all throughout Section IV, and who might possibly clash in each of the five different league championships.  This week I’ll look at sectional play.

 

* Before I go into that, there’s a couple of rules from the Section IV Handbook that I want to point out.  In order to be eligible for sectional play, teams must adhere to the following: 1) Must have played at least 10 games prior to Thursday, May 11.  Scrimmages do not count towards this.  2) Must have an overall 40% winning percentage OR won 50% of their games in their respective class.  If only one team per class qualifies for this, the second seeded team would have the option of playing in the championship.

 

* These are both good rules, especially the second one.  It places an emphasis on winning in the regular season, and doesn’t just allow teams with poor records to magically make the postseason anyway.  If you want to make the dance, you have to earn your way there.

 

* Class AA:  The top teams right now are Horseheads and Binghamton, who have each split a game with each other.  That was Horseheads only loss of the season thus far.  Jenna Richmond has some huge hits this year, including a three-run bomb to hand Maine-Endwell their first loss.  Binghamton started off a little cold, but have turned things around lately.  They’re coming off of two impressive weekend wins over Deposit and Susquehanna Valley in the Mary Testa Tournament at Chenango Valley.  They also ran right through Union-Endicott and Corning before that.  Paige Rauch is a shutdown pitcher on the mound, and packs quite the punch at the plate.  Elmira and Corning are the other two teams.  Elmira beat Binghamton earlier this season, but have dropped a few games to Maine-Endwell and Horseheads.  Corning has also dropped some games against the big name teams.

 

* Class A:  Maine-Endwell is the clear top dog in this class, as they finally dropped a game to Horseheads after winning their first seven games.  They can win with their big bats, or by Emily Hess putting up blanks on the mound.  Johnson City lost a couple of games to Susquehanna Valley towards the start of the season, but have certainly been impressive lately.  They’ve taken down Chenango Forks, Windsor, and Afton, and beat Seton to win the Mary Testa Tournament at Newark Valley.  Both Mackenzie Carlin and Katrina Fox are strong on the mound, and at the rate they’re going, they look like they’ll have plenty of momentum going for them.  Vestal has been up-and-down this season, but also won the Mary Testa Tournament this weekend with two blowout wins over Webster and Oneonta.  Le Moyne bound Lauren Lee is getting stronger on the mound as the season goes on, and continues to get it done at the plate as well.  Union-Endicott certainly helped their cause by winning (you guessed it) the Mary Testa Tournament, beating two good teams in Elmira and Chenango Forks.  They’ll look to sneak in.  Owego has a win over Windsor, but has some work to do if they want to get in.

 

* Class B:  Susquehanna Valley ran the table to start the year before running into Binghamton in the championship of the Mary Testa Tournament at Chenango Valley.  Despite the loss, they’ve certainly been the top dog of this class, as Sophia Pappas has proven to be a complete handful for opposing teams.  They’re not lighting up the scoreboard, but they are making it really hard for teams to score on them.  Before the Binghamton game, the most runs they’ve surrendered is four to Johnson City.  As long as Pappas is on the mound, they’re going to be favored.  Windsor has played both their best and their worst.  They started the season winning close games, but ever since a 4-2 loss to Owego on April 21, they’ve lost to Chenango Forks, Johnson City, and SV.  But they’re still Windsor, and you know they can make noise in May.  Chenango Forks and Waverly are both right there as well.  Forks has beaten Windsor and Edison, while suffering close losses to Union-Endicott and SV.  Waverly lost to Edison in 9 innings earlier this season, and dropped a couple to Elmira Notre Dame.  But when their bats are on, they can get an upset win.

 

* Class C:  As the class size gets smaller, the numbers of teams go way up, starting in C.  The best team right now is the defending state champions, Elmira Notre Dame.  Simply put, they’ve beaten everyone, and I’m pretty sure you can’t do better than that.  If you want to win this class, you’ll have to go through them.  Which teams might be able to do that?  Edison has tried twice and failed, though the first game was on a walk-off, 5-4 defeat.  They’ve stepped up in competition this past week and lost to Elmira ND twice, Chenango Forks, and Elmira.  Bigger games against bigger schools will only help them in trying to get over the hump.  Bainbridge-Guilford has some really good wins this year over Hancock and Afton, while losing to Deposit.  Union Springs is led by St. Bonaventure bound Grace Van Horn on the mound.  Anytime her stuff is working, they’re capable of beating anyone.  Let’s see how they do against some better teams in their upcoming games.  Moravia is led by superstar Maddie Funk on the mound, and like Van Horn, is certainly good enough to lead her team to a big win when she’s on.  Odessa-Montour has played better the last few games after losing big to Edison on Tuesday.  Grace Vondracek leads them on the mound.  Tioga has some wins, but has taken it on the chin in their losses to Elmira ND, Waverly, Edison, and this weekend to Tunkhannock and Maine-Endwell in the Mary Testa Tournament.

 

* Class D:  There doesn’t look to be much of any reason at this point to think it won’t be Deposit vs. Edmeston in a rematch of last year’s final.  Edmeston is flawless and untested on the year.  Catherine Johnson is somehow getting better and better, and the bar is already really high.  They’re destroying anyone put in front of them.  If Deposit has an edge, it’s that they’ll play tougher competition (though Edmeston can’t do anything about that, to be fair).  This weekend Deposit locked horns with Binghamton at the Mary Testa Tournament, then easily beat Chenango Valley right after.  They defeated Hancock and Bainbridge-Guilford earlier this year, and will have to face Afton still.  And they have their own superstar pitcher, Makenzie Stiles.  Can anyone upset either one of these two teams?  It’s hard to see that happening, but you never know.  Afton will always have the talent and coaching to win big games.  Laurens hasn’t lost yet, and Hancock and Schenevus have many wins as well.  Like the saying goes – that’s why they play the games.

 

4/23/17

* After a wet, snowy, and cold start, the softball season is progressing along at a brisk pace.  Let’s take a look at the battles that are emerging for league championships in STAC, IAC, MAC, Delaware, and Tri-Valley.  Keep in mind that I’m merely looking at who MIGHT win divisions, as there’s still plenty of ball left to be played.

 

* STAC: The early favorites so far are Maine-Endwell (Metro), Horseheads (West), Susquehanna Valley (Central), and Windsor (East).  Those teams should sound familiar, as everyone except M-E won their respective division last season, and Binghamton took home the crown (M-E rebounded quite nicely by winning a state championship in Class A).  Corning is lurking in the West, as they gave M-E all they could handle earlier this season with a 4-3 loss.  Johnson City is hanging around in the Central, but would need help after dropping two to SV.  Chenango Forks would need a win over Windsor and some help to take the East.

 

* IAC: There’s three clear division favorites thus far: Union Springs (North Large), Moravia (North Small), and Tioga (South Small).  There’s a terrific battle shaping up in the South Large division between Elmira Notre Dame and Edison, with Waverly lurking.  And lucky us, this week Elmira ND and Edison play Tuesday and Friday.  If you want to watch some great softball, make sure you get to at least one of those games.  Keep in mind that the IAC plays a Large School championship and a Small School championship.  Last year, it was Edison beating Union Springs to win the Large, and Tioga beating Groton in the Small.

 

* MAC: Instead of just one division with the top four teams advancing, the MAC this year has two divisions.  Considering their schedule lists both a semi-final and final, one would think that means the top two teams in each division advance to the semis.  With that in mind, in Division I, it’s Greene on top with Harpursville close behind.  In Division II, it’s a dog fight between Deposit, Bainbridge-Guilford, Afton, and Hancock.  That’s one loaded division in any league.  Deposit came out on top over Sidney last season.

 

* Delaware: Most teams have been unlucky with the weather, as there haven’t been many games played.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, in the Upper Delaware, it’s Davenport on top with Hunter-Tannersville behind, and in the Delaware Mountain, it’s Downsville and Gilboa.  Davenport took down Downsville last season.

 

* Tri-Valley: With one division and the top four teams making the playoffs, the setup is a bit different than other leagues.  Edmeston and Schenevus are on top right now, and the race for the final two seeds are wide open.  Like the Delaware league, however, there just hasn’t been many games to judge this by yet.  But with warmer weather, a little more luck, and a lot drier fields, hopefully more softball can be played these next couple of weeks.  Edmeston has won four straight league titles, defeating Richfield Springs 6-3 last season.

 

* What are the big games this week?  Glad you asked (home team listed second).  Monday: Corning vs. Maine-Endwell, Binghamton vs. Horseheads, Waverly vs. Elmira Notre Dame.  Tuesday: Horseheads vs. Binghamton, Edison vs. Elmira Notre Dame.  Wednesday: Horseheads vs. Maine-Endwell, Susquehanna Valley vs. Windsor, Bainbridge-Guilford vs. Hancock, Deposit vs. Greene.  Thursday: Corning vs. Horseheads.  Friday: Vestal vs. Horseheads, Afton vs. Greene, Elmira Notre Dame vs. Edison.  Plus the Mary Testa Tournament and Mudville Tournament on Saturday.  Big week!

4/16/17

* Last year, Section IV sent a team to the state championship game in all five classes.  Four of those five teams this season are off to red hot starts: Maine-Endwell, Windsor, Elmira Notre Dame, and Deposit.

 

* Maine-Endwell defeated Union-Endicott in last year’s Class A final 7-4, and this year they’ve picked up two more wins over them, 12-2 and 11-3.  Starting pitcher Emily Hess perhaps summed up her squad best by commenting to the Press: “We don’t have a girl who can’t swing the bat on this team…We know we’re going to put runs on the board.”  Mikayla Garborino, Melissa Demo, Meaghan Raleigh, Alexis Wanchisen, Meredith Rose, Allison L’Amoreaux, and Hess all contributed at the plate in the 11-3 win.  They look just as deep and scary this year as last.

 

* Windsor was the lone team of the five that did not win a state championship, though they certainly came close in losing 2-1 to Marlboro.  They’ve been tested a few times by Chenango Forks and Chenango Valley, but are still finding ways to win.  You know Windsor – they’ll always have someone ready to step in on varsity thanks to a great program that starts from the bottom up.

 

* Elmira Notre Dame started off the week blowing through two teams in the Mudville Tournament, and have only continued their winning ways.  They beat Watkins Glen and Newark Valley by combined scores of 24-1.  According to my results, they’ve outscored the opposition 106-4 thus far.  They’ll still have tough tests against Waverly (who lost 7-2 to END already), Tioga, and Edison coming up soon.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing if any of those schools challenge END.

 

* Deposit had perhaps their toughest test of the season at unbeaten Bainbridge-Guilford on Wednesday, but Makenzie Stiles threw a four-hitter, Kyra Martin hit a two-run homer, and Deposit prevailed 7-1.  That came two days after Stiles threw a perfect game against Harpursville.  The Pittsburgh commit (remember, she’s only a sophomore right now) continues to set the bar high and exceed it.  They’ll get to tangle with Afton on Friday, April 21, which should be fun.

 

* There were a couple of games that went 9 innings on Monday.  Vestal beat Binghamton 5-3, but only after both teams were scoreless through 8.  Go figure.  Standouts Paige Rauch of Binghamton and Lauren Lee of Vestal had identical lines of 10 strikeouts and one walk.  A big two-base error to open the 9th helped Vestal open it up.  Rauch did her best to start a rally in the bottom half, but a lineout with runners on ended the game.

 

* The other 9 inning game was Edison beating Waverly 4-2.  Edison got four straight singles to break open the 2-2 tie in the top of the 9th, and Bella Willsey shut the door in order to finish it off.  That was easily Edison’s biggest test of the year, as they’ve pretty much destroyed everybody else.  Waverly gave Elmira Notre Dame their closest game earlier in the season, and after this loss, have bounced back with four straight big victories.

 

* Monday also saw three sensational pitching performances.  I’ve already mentioned Makenzie Stiles and her perfect game against Harpursville, striking out 14.  Tioga’s Madalyn Dydynski tossed a no-hitter over Watkins Glen, striking out 10.  Moravia’s Maddie Funk did it against Trumansburg, fanning 16 along the way.  Impressive work by all three of these ladies.

 

* Ever wonder why Section IV does so well in the state tournament?  Pitching, pitching, pitching.  This area is so deep in it, it’s pretty amazing to say the least.

 

* In taking a look at the Tri-Valley, Schenevus and Edmeston look to be on a collision course for the league championship.  Both teams are putting up double-digit runs on a regular basis.  Edmeston has quite the ace on the mound in Catherine Johnson, who’s already pitched in some big-time games last year.  As of now, both teams will have to wait until Friday, May 5 to battle, as an earlier game between the two was rained/snowed out.

 

* Other teams rolling along with great starts: Horseheads, Susquehanna Valley, Union Springs, Edison, Greene, and Davenport all have yet to lose.  Keep in mind, some teams have as many as five or more games in, while others as little as two.  There’s a few other teams with only one loss who are playing some great softball as well.

 

* Until next week, enjoy the games!

4/9/17

* There were chunks of games played on Monday and Wednesday, which provided rare windows of opportunities to play.  The other days were the typical mess of snow/rain/cold.  But looking at the weather for next week, dare I say spring will finally be here?

* Let's start off with the big wins by Bainbridge-Guilford in the Mudville Tournament.  They defeated Canastota 3-2 and Poland 3-0, to be the only team of the four (Mayfield was the other team) to win both games.  Kori Thornton claimed the MVP.  They followed that up with a 7-0 win over Sidney.  They're definitely a team to look out for in the MAC, as they have never won a league title.  They'll get the usual tough tests from teams like Deposit and Afton.  Those will be great games to watch.

* The big upset of the week may have been Elmira's comeback win over reigning AA state champion Binghamton.  Although, a quick check of Binghamton's 22-2 record from 2016 shows Elmira as one of the losses.  After superstar Paige Rauch gave Binghamton a lead in the top of the 7th with a home run, Elmira fought right back with an RBI double by Emily Saltsman, and some nifty baserunning by Mariah Graham to get into a rundown between first and second, allowing Saltsman to score the walk-off winner.  Elmira bounced back from an opening loss to Owego.  I'd say that's quite the way to bounce back.

* Elmira Note Dame continues to blow right through all of their competition.  Here's how good they've been: They've defeated Newfield, Spencer-Van Etten, Waverly, Candor, New Hartford, and South Seneca by combined scores of 83-3.  It's hard to imagine a team possibly starting a season better than that.  They're getting all kinds of production up and down the lineup, and Izzy Milazzo and Tiyah Moffe are forming quite the tandem on the mound.  After Sunday, they'll already have six games in thanks to two more games in the Mudville Tournament (in which they dominated New Hartford 8-0 and South Seneca 17-0, with Milazzo taking home the MVP). The Softball Gods have been kind thus far.

 

*Not so kind?  How about the teams that have yet to even play a game, such as Susquehanna Valley, Afton, and many schools in the Delaware and Tri-Valley.  You have to feel bad for lots of these kids, in baseball as well, who are just itching to get outside and practice, let along play a game.  Well, I suppose you shouldn't feel too bad for Afton, as they're currently in Florida playing games over Spring Break.  Not bad!

* Three other teams with plenty of early success are Tioga (3-0, won three straight IAC Small School championships, lost 2-1 to Elmira Notre Dame in last year's Class C final), Union Springs (4-0, been in IAC Small or Large School championship dating back to 2009 and possibly longer), and Maine-Endwell (2-0, current Class A state champions, five straight Section IV championships).  Tioga and Union Springs have largely been untested, but Maine-Endwell needed a 5th inning two-run shot by Meghan Raleigh to hold off Corning 4-3.

* I get lots of my results from many of the local publications (visit the "Links" page for a list), and people reaching out to me via Email (section4softball@gmail.com) and on Twitter (@sect4softball).  For all of those who've reported scores to me, thank you!  I'm not sure people realize just how big of an area Section IV covers, so there's a lot more teams than you might think.  Any help I can get is always appreciated.

* Until next week, get out there, support the local teams, and enjoy the best high school softball in the state!

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4/2/17

Welcome to the blog page of Section4Softball.com!  Here I will provide a recap of the week that was in Section IV softball.

* There were two big themes for the first week of action: rainouts and blowouts.  Rain dominated the early slate of games, as is usually the case for any section in New York.  Already, there's many makeup games coming starting next week.  You have to feel bad for the girls, as it's hard to get into much of a rhythm when you're constantly practicing inside.  But like the saying goes, it is what it is.

* Blowouts was the other theme.  Throw out a couple of close wins by Owego and Bainbridge-Guilford, practically every other game wasn't much of a contest.  As I stated before, it's hard to play a real game outside when you're relegated to practicing in a gym for many of the days leading up to the regular season.  Some players are already in midseason form, thanks for endless offseason work, which gives them at least a little bit of an edge.  To the teams that had tough first games, there's plenty of more season to come, so keep working.

* Owego managed to sneak in a couple of games with smart (and lucky) scheduling.  They went on the road and defeated Elmira 4-2 on Wednesday, before falling to Windsor 9-1 at home on Thursday.  Windsor will always be a "measuring stick" program, so it's good for Owego to play them early to see where they stand, and what they have to do to improve.

* Union Springs started off the season about as well as they could've hoped with two dominant wins: 14-3 over Groton on Wednesday, and 15-0 over Trumansburg a day later.  They're led by St. Bonaventure recruit Grace Van Horn on the mound, who struck out 22 batters combined in both games.  That's an impressive early message sent out by them to other members of the IAC.

* Perhaps the most impressive team thus far?  The defending Class C state champion Elmira Notre Dame Crusaders.  They blew right through Newfield 24-0 in the first Section IV game of the season, then followed that up with a 10-0 win over Spencer-Van Etten.  The highlight of the second win was a no-hitter by junior Izzy Milazzo.  Despite losing Class C Player of the Year Alivia Clark to graduation, they still have a couple of junior studs in Milazzo (1st team all-state) and Courtney Crater (3rd team).  They haven't skipped a beat so far.

* Bainbridge-Guilford picked up a solid non-league win on Saturday afternoon by defeating Chenango Valley. Junior catcher Megan Palmatier (3rd team all-state) leads a young group that finished third in the MAC last season.

* Lots of games coming up on Monday and Tuesday, so hope for no more rain!

* Disclaimer - This site is not affiliated with Section IV. I am a fan of softball in this area, so I created this site.
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