MALTA — To say the Colonie softball team is hitting its stride is an understatement. To say it’s happening at the right time of year is painfully obvious.
The Raiders had 14 hits including four homeruns in a 17-4 shellacking of Bethlehem on Tuesday, June 4 to win its first Section II, Class AA crown since 2010.
Colonie catcher Chloe Vanburen had two home runs in the decisive, nine-run third inning, her third and fourth of the season all came in the last three games when the No. 4 seed Colonie got by Shaker 2-1 the first round and then upset the No. 1 seed team from Shen 4-3 in the semis.
“I thought we were going to come in and have a tough game but we put on our hitting shoes and got the job done,” said Vanburen, the second year starting catcher.
And sophomore Carly Gemmet continues to throw well, allowing just six hits against the Eagles to pick up the win.
“She has been Pitching well all season and she stepped up when it counted,” said coach Sean Merchant. “For a sophomore to pitch that well in big moments speaks to who she is, the type of kid she is, and the work she puts in and hopefully we can carry this through for the rest of the playoffs.”
The Raiders will travel to Syracuse on Friday, June 7 to play Cicero-North Syracuse in the state regionals.
“We are going to do the same thing today, come in expecting a fight and put on our batting shoes,” Vanburen said. “We are going to practice hard, and work in the cage and do our best.”
She went 3 for 4 with four RBIs while Jacyln Dyer, the No. 2 hitter, went 2 for 4 with a double and a homerun and four RBIs and Jen McCumber went 1 for 3 with a homerun and three RBIs.
Bethlehem, the No. 3 seed who upset the No. 2 seed Columbia to earn a chance to play in the finals, tied the score at 1 after the first inning but then saw Colonie score 16 unanswered. The Eagles scored three in the bottom of the fifth, but by that time they were down 17-1 and the game ended via the mercy rule.
Sophia Defrancesco went 2 for 2 for Bethlehem while Ana Losee went 1 for 3 with a double and three RBIs and Clare Boegel went 1 for 3 with an RBI.
“We hit four homeruns in a game and we had good at bats, that was our message today, have good at bats and make the pitchers come to us because we have been hitting well lately,” Merchant said. “Our defense has been playing great as of late too and our energy level contributes to that. You know there are some girls out there that are going to make some plays.”
Colonie started out strong this season, beating Shen, who everyone thought was the strongest team in Section II, and then getting mercied at home by the same squad.
“That Shen game has been in our minds for a while,” Merchant said. “We beat Shen the first game of the season and we rode that wave a little too long and got a little complacent but the second game sparked us a little bit and brought us back to reality.”
Through May 27, Shen was ranked No. 2 in the state. Through June 3, Colonie is ranked No. 7 and Bethlehem is ranked No. 10. Cicero-North Syracuse is ranked No. 4, according to the New York State Sports Writers Association. According to the earlier ranking, Colonie was not in the top 30.
The coach and the team spoke of “energy,” and an abundance was displayed on the field and in the dugout.
“We came out with so much adrenaline and excitement and we played hard as a team. I try to keep the younger girls up and we are here because we work as a team. That’s how we got here,” said four-year varsity player Myaisha Kelly, the team’s third baseman. “We have been working so hard, and nobody expected us to do this and we did it. It feels fabulous.”
The sophomore hurler with a bag full of different pitches that keep batters guessing or on their heels as she blows a fastball by them, she said it “feels amazing” to win a Section II title.
“I’m happy with what we have done as a team and what we accomplished all season,” Gemmet said. “First I’m going to ice my arm, and then I’m going to try to get into a zone and focus on what is next rather that what has already happened.”
Cicero-North Syracuse is the Section III champ and finished the season with an 18-3 record. Merchant said he will try to talk to some people and get an idea about what kind of team his team will face on Friday, but the plan now is to just keep doing what they have been doing.
“Why change what is working. We are going to probably hit a little bit and tomorrow (Wednesday) and we will hit a little bit and maybe do some defense on Thursday. As long as we keep hitting, and we are hot at the plate, we have all the confidence in the world today,” he said.
“I told the team today, that not a lot of kids play for any kind of title and the AA competition here is very, very tough so to come out on top is very special.”
The game at Carrier Park in Syracuse is slated to start at 5 p.m.