Like a Family

Close-knit softball squad sets sights on post-season glory

by Crispin Kott
May 05, 2011 03:58 PM | 0 0 comments | 136 136 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Left, Taylor Snyder pitching. Right, Magen Mellville, Maureen Ball and Donna Bracco.
Photos by Kerri Dornicik.
view slideshow (5 images)
Heading into the Tuesday, May 3 home game against Ellenville, the Saugerties High varsity softball team had already locked up a bid in the Sectional playoffs, the starting point for any team hoping to win the state title.

When it was all said and done, the Sawyers had notched a decisive 11-0 victory. Saugerties was led by a dominant performance by pitcher Taylor Snyder, who struck out seven, walked one and saw another baserunner reach by error in a complete-game no-hitter.

The Sawyer offense was also in the zone, amassing 15 hits in the key victory. Jamie Whittam smashed a two-run homer in the win, while Donna Brocco (two doubles, two singles, two RBI), Banks (double, three singles, two RBI) and Maureen Ball (two singles, RBI) all made significant contributions.

Head Coach Melinda Whitaker said she’s pleased with how the team has played in a season that began with other teams not regarding them as the dangerous opponent they’ve become. The team is 5-4 overall at roughly the midway point of the season, with a 4-4 record against MHAL competition. As long as that MHAL record stays at .500 or better over the final six games of the regular season, the team will have one run of postseason play under their collective belts before hitting the Sectionals.

“We’re doing great,” Whitaker said. “We’ve already made Sectionals, and that was one of our goals. Now we’re doing our best to win most of our games outright to see if we can make MHALs.”

If it happens, the Sawyers will definitely have earned their way into the MHAL playoffs. After hosting Ellenville on Tuesday, May 3, the team’s final six games include four trips out of town, with two of the most important – Wallkill and Spackenkill – right around the corner.

“This week we play Ellenville, Wallkill and Spackenkill, and if we win these three games, it’s going to help us with our record and to get into MHAL,” Whitaker said prior to the victory over Ellenville. “Our offense and defense are doing well. We’re just hoping we can have them both do well at the same time over the rest of the season.”

Whitaker said part of making that possible was that the team is really a team in every sense.

“This is the closest team I’ve ever had, and they’re really good about supporting each other and being there for one another,” she said.

Senior third baseman Abbey Osborn agreed.

“This team is like a family,” she said. “We win together, lose together, and in the end of the day we all have learned valuable life lessons like dedication, commitment, hard work and the power of a team.”

Senior Donna Brocco, a captain at second base, said having a limited roster has allowed them to circle the wagons and become a real team.

“Since we only have eleven girls this year on varsity, our team communication is pretty good so far,” she said.

That relatively small lineup has been both a blessing and a curse. While it’s allowed the team to pull together like never before, it also means that when things aren’t going well, there are few sparkplugs to bring in off the bench to turn the tides.

“Hitting is contagious,” Whitaker said. “If someone isn’t hitting, they’re all not hitting.”

Recent results

On Friday, April 29, the hitting wasn’t as much of a problem as the scoring. The Sawyers lost 4-2 against host FDR. Juniors Jamie Whittam and Martene Henriksen each hit a pair of singles to account for half the team’s hit total. Pitcher Taylor Snyder, also a junior, absorbed the loss.

Snyder also took the loss in a 6-3 home defeat at the hands of Highland two days earlier, though she tried to help her own cause with a bat, blasting a double. Senior captain Brittany Banks hit a pair of singles, while Whittam smashed a home run in a bottom of the seventh that saw the Sawyers score all their runs. Down by six runs with just three outs at their disposal, Saugerties showed a quality that could wind up serving them well down the line: they refused to quit. And while it didn’t work out for them on the scoreboard, it might just have drawn them even closer together.

“I see the team going very far because we’re strong and have a bond like many teams don’t have,” said Osborn, adding that the team’s actual softball acumen is also coming together at the right time. “We cover all the bases with great pitching, fielding, hitting, speed and communication. This team is ready to go.”

In addition to the next three tough teams the Sawyers will tackle, they’ve also got more difficult contests on the horizon. They’ll all serve as tests to see how the team will fare against increasingly more difficult competition the deeper they go in the playoffs. After Spackenkill, Saugerties hosts New Paltz and FDR, before hitting the road for their final two regular season games. They play at Rondout Valley on Thursday, May 12, followed by a visit to Rhinebeck two days later.

Brocco said she’s been looking forward to the challenge of playing Rondout all season long.

“We’ve had some tough losses against them in the past years and this is definitely the year where we have the best team to beat them with,” she said, adding that she wanted to be clear that the Sawyers take every challenge seriously. “We’re thankful to play any team and we look forward to every game.”
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