It’s their turn.
After growing up idolizing state championship teams and witnessing the reception they got, the current Mechanicville softball team wants in on that tradition. The Lady Raiders get their chance Saturday, when they play Section III champ Solvay in an 11:30 a.m. Class B semifinal at Moreau State Park.
“You’d hear the fire trucks, and you’d run outside,” said sophomore outfielder Devon Scott, recalling times a state championship team would get an escort from the fire department upon arriving back in town. “I never thought I’d be on any sports team that would make it this far. You look back when you were younger, dreaming of that, and now, you’re there.”
“I remember when I was in Lassie League, and the Raiders won states, and I said, “I want to do that.’ ” said senior outfielder Jami Frosell, who hits behind Scott at the top of the lineup for the 20-4 Section II and regional champs. “It’s surreal. It’s always what we’ve worked for, but it hasn’t happened for the last two years. Now, it’s here. We’re in the states.”
Mechanicville has not played this far into the season since winning the second of two straight state titles in 2009, the last of which was the sixth in program history.
No player took season-ending losses harder the last two years than senior pitcher Kirstyn Alonzo.
“I can’t wait for it to be Saturday,” she said as the Lady Raiders prepared on Thursday. “I haven’t slept in a week. I’m mostly done, and this is the last thing I really have left.”
Alonzo could have been referring to both her senior year in school and her athletic career at Mechanicville.
“I could see it in other seniors before, how they loved the game,” she said. “Now that I’m a senior, it’s a different feeling.”
Mechanicville coach Don Arceneaux, wrapping up his 12th season as head coach, has every confidence in Alonzo.
“It starts with her,” Arceneaux said, nodding in Alonzo’s direction. “She was great the last two years, but she’s really matured this year. She doesn’t get rattled.
“The kids, they’re always into it, but it seemed something clicked before sectionals. They got into it a lot more.”
Confidence has been a key for Mechanicville, which lost its season opener to Colonial Council rival Cohoes, and got off to a 1-2 start. They would beat the Lady Tigers in the sectional final.
“I think it was good that we lost early in the year, because you learn from your losses,” said Scott. “That’s when you work hard. When you win, you start to think you’re better than anyone and you stop working hard.”
“We had a rocky start, but once we get to postseason, something changes in us and comes out,” said Frosell. “When we beat Cohoes, we thought we had a chance to go all the way.”
“It was tough getting out of the section,” said Arceneaux. “We had to beat four championship-level teams.”
Like the Section II champions, 21-1 Solvay has a solid lineup and good pitching.
“I had a chance to see them,” said Arceneaux. “They’re a good team, They’re athletic. They hit well one through nine. They’re very similar to us.”
“I feel like we’re prepared,” Frosell said. “We’ve been hitting the ball great. Defensively, we’ve been playing great.”
“It’s like a home game for us. We’re going to be able to have like hundreds of fans there,” Alonzo said. “The town has been really supportive. There are signs up everywhere.”
“I think we keep getting here because the kids are talented and they work at it,” Arceneaux. “There’s nothing in the water.”
Troy (Class A) and Greenwich (Class C) return to the state semifinals, where their 2013 seasons ended. Fort Ann is also back to defend its Class D state title.
Troy, 23-1, takes a 21-game winning streak into a 1:30 semi with Williamsville South of Section VI.
Greenwich, a 2012 state champ, is in its fourth straight state final four. The 16-9 Witches get Pierson/Bridgehampton (Section XI) in their 11:30 a.m. semi.
Fort Ann takes a 19-1 record into its 9 a.m. semi against Deposit (Section IV), its third straight state semifinal.