SOUTH GLENS FALLS -- Throughout her high school career, Ichabod Crane's Calista Phippen has been the personification of domination.
The two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year was at her best on Saturday, striking out a total of 33 batters and allowing just one hit in two games as the Riders (22-1) earned their second New York State Class B championship in the past four years with wins over Olean (5-0) in the semifinals and Susquehanna Valley (2-0) in the title game at Moreau Rec.
"I put in a lot of effort, but my teammates put in just as much," Phippen said. "They had my back the entire time and I could not be more proud of them. I'm just so happy we could all do this together and we all put in everything we had and it paid off. I'm just so proud of this family we have here. It's hard to put into words, I just love them so much. I love my family!"
Saturday's championship game brought together the two top-ranked Class B teams in the state and two of the top pitchers in Phippen and Susquehanna Valley's Sophia Pappas. The game quickly turned into a pitcher's duel with neither team getting a base hit until Crane's Ashley DeKraai led off the bottom of the third with a bloop single to right.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when the Riders finally got to Pappas for two runs. Gabbie Cox smoked a 1-1 pitch to left for a double to lead off the rally.
"First pitch I swung and missed and I was like 'alright, get your head in there,'" Cox explained. "Second pitch I fouled off so I had to focus, third pitch I got down, took it to left-center and I'm going."
Phippen followed with a bunt single and continued on to second when Susquehanna Valley attempted to catch Cox straying off third. A perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Kaili Saccento brought Cox in with what turned out to be the game-winning run. Alex McKearin drew a walk to load the bases and Kylie Rivers came through with another squeeze bunt to score Phippen with an insurance run.
"I thought about bunting a little earlier, but we can hit," Riders coach Tracy Nytransky said. "Their pitcher throws hard, we just had to lay off that rise ball and we laid off that and the last couple of innings she grooved some nice pitches in there and gave us the opportunity and Gabbie Cox came up huge with that double. When Gab hit that double it was actually a relief. Calista's a good bunter, she put a perfect bunt down to get on and Kaili came up big, too. That's what it takes at this stage. We need a couple of people to get on base. We had some opportuntities in the first and third innings and we just couldn't execute, and in the sixth we did."
Phippen retired the side in order in the seventh and was helped by Lauryn Heffner, who made the final putout with an outstanding catch in left field, robbing Michaela Haskell of what looked to be a sure double.
The state championship run brings to an end the stellar high school career of Phippen , who finished the title game with 13 strikeouts and two walks, while allowing just a bunt single to Hallie Martin in the top of the sixth.
"It's awesome to go out with a bang," Phippen said. "To end on a happy note, we end with a win, it's such a big deal, it means everything."
Phippen finishes her final season in a Riders uniform with a 22-1 record and 0.09 earned run average, with 357 strikeouts in 148 innings. She allowed just two earned runs the entire season, threw 19 shutouts, seven no-hitters and eight one-hitters.
"It's been great," Nytransky said of the four years Phippen has been on the varsity. "Coming from her freshman year and winning the state her freshman year and every year after that we were at least in the running, but to win it again her senior year is special for both of us."
Phippen is the only current Riders player that played on the state championship winning team in 2015.
"I was a lot more composed this time," Phippen said. "It wasn't easy at all. I was still dizzy, but I had a lot more confidence than I did in my freshman year and I had a lot more confidence in my teammates because I knew they wanted it, whereas in my freshman year we didn't know if we were going to win it. This year we knew we had a chance."
In Saturday's semifinal game against Olean, Phippen pitched a no-hitter and struck out 20 to lead Crane into the championship game.
Jenna Downey got the Riders on the board when she drilled a pitch from St. Bonaventure-bound right-hander Alyssa Ramarge over the fence in right-center field to start the second inning,
Saccento's two-run single in the third made it 3-0. The Riders tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh on an RBI double by Rivers and an RBI single by Saccento, respectively.
Cox and McKearin both had two singles for Crane.
Ramarage went the distance on the mound for Olean, striking out nine, walking three and allowing five runs on eight hits.