FORT EDWARD — The Greenville Lady Spartans find themselves in familiar territory, competing for a chance at a New York State Class C championship this weekend.
Standing in the Lady Spartans’ way of a title game appearance is Section VI champion Chautauqua Lake, who is making its first appearance in the NYSPHSAA semifinals. First pitch slated for 11:30 a.m. at Moreau Rec.
Coach Brian Haller’s squad is veteran-laden with nine players having competed in the New York state softball tournament, and eight current players experienced last year’s Final Four outing against Pine Plains.
Heading into Saturday’s semifinal, Haller expects that the playoff experience over the previous three seasons should play into his team’s favor when they take the field.
“Experience in these games is huge, it eliminates uncertainty,” Haller said. “From Friday night to the moment we take the field, the routine is identical to last year. Knowing what to expect will allow the girls to relax Friday night, enjoy the opening ceremonies, and take it all in.
“The team feels like they missed an opportunity last year to play in the Finals. We’ve discussed what went wrong and it won’t happen again.”
Greenville (19-2) reached the New York state Final Four with a dramatic 5-4 victory over Chatham in the Section II, Class C championship game.
In the YS tournament, Greenville breezed past Section X St. Lawrence and Section VII AuSable Valley to advance to the Final Four.
Through seven games this postseason, the Lady Spartans offense is led by Jazzmin Gibson, who is batting .555 with a double and seven RBI. Alexis Caprio is hitting .428 with a home run and three RBI, and Ava Fitzmaurice is 11 for 23 (.478) with three doubles, two triples and two RBI.
In the circle, Fitzmaurice has a 0.45 ERA with 65 strikeouts and only 12 hits allowed over 40 innings.
After a five-error game in the Class C title matchup, the Lady Spartans’ defense has been perfect. Making the routine plays is something Haller preaches to his team.
“Our defense has really stepped up since Chatham. Kasey Pfleging has been solid at third base especially, taking away the short game,” Haller explained. “Our freshman catcher Molly SanEmeterio has done a great job replacing Justine Albin, and our eighth-grader Emma Haller had really solidified the defense on the right side at second base.”
Heading into the game against Chautauqua Lake, Haller wants to make the Lady Thunderbirds earn every run and not grant them extra outs in an inning.
Chautauqua Lake enters Saturday’s contest with a 15-2 record and will be competing in its first state Final Four in school history.
The Lady Thunderbirds reached the Final Four by first defeating Portville 9-2, capitalizing on four errors in the first inning to take an early lead.
Against Section V Caledonia-Mumford in the New York state Class C quarterfinals, Chautauqua Lake used a two-run fourth inning to regain the lead and snag a 4-3 victory.
Chautauqua Lake has been building for this moment since Teets brought up pitcher Olivia Anderson and Chadelynn Johnson as seventh-graders. This has been a five-year journey for the duo.
As seventh-graders, they lost to Franklinville, however, the following year they fell to Addison in the New York state Class C Far West Regional.
In the circle, Anderson is a dangerous pitcher who can punch out batters with the same success rate as Fitzmaurice. The junior flamethrower boasts a 1.94 ERA with 176 strikeouts over 106 1/3 innings pitched. At the dish, Anderson is batting .457 with eight doubles, three triples, a home run and 16 RBI.
The Lady Thunderbirds’ top offensive threat is junior Cianna Braymiller, who is hitting .483 with five doubles, five triples, six home runs and 32 RBI.
Along with Anderson and Braymiller, Chautauqua Lake has Johnson and lone senior Cameryn Hawkins. Hawkins is another player with pop in her bat, hitting .357 with six doubles, one triple, three home runs and 16 RBI. Johnson is batting .372 with eight doubles, three triples, one home run and 13 RBI.
With two days left before Greenville takes the field at Moreau Rec in the state Final Four once again, Haller has told his ladies that nothing changes. The mound is still 43 feet away, the bases are 60 feet apart and they will continue to do what’s gotten them to their second straight Class C semifinal appearance.
“The team’s accomplishments under coach Gannon and this year are something the girls can be proud of the rest of their lives, but, honestly, we want to win,” Haller said. “Moral victories, getting this far, won’t satisfy this team. When they get older, they can, and should, look back on all of this with great pride. But this opportunity, in this moment right now, only a state championship will suffice.”