Shenendehowa senior baseball standout Jake Reinisch wasn’t prepared for his high school athletic career to come to a close the way it did Friday morning.
Like all spring sport student-athletes from Section II and other parts of the state, he was holding onto a slim hope that maybe, just maybe, there would be games to play at some point. Then, he heard the news.
“In the back of my mind, I knew we might not have a season, but I didn’t expect the next announcement to be the end of the school year,” Reinisch said. “At first, I was kind of in shock.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Friday that New York schools that he previously ordered closed through at least May 15 would stay closed for the remainder of the academic year. That decision meant no spring sports, which had already taken a hit days before when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Section II canceled their championship events, but left the door open for some kind of abbreviated competition schedule.
Lost last week were so many opportunities, and what remained were only dreams of what might have been.
“It’s unfortunate,” Shenendehowa baseball coach Greg Christodulu said. “They’re losing out on so many life experiences that lay a foundation for our youth.”
Shenendehowa would have fielded a veteran and talented baseball team this spring, with 11 seniors among 15 lettermen back from the 2019 edition that followed up its Section II Class AA title with a run to the state’s championship game.
Reinisch played a key role in his team getting that far as the Plainsmen’s third baseman and clean-up batter. Among his clutch hits was a walk-off RBI single in the seventh inning that gave Shenendehowa a 3-2 Section II semifinal win over Saratoga Springs. Shenendehowa went on to beat Niskayuna 7-1 in nine innings for its first area crown since 2016. Reinisch had two RBIs in that game, and triggered a six-run ninth with a run-scoring triple.
“I thought of all the good times we had,” Reinisch, a Wake Forest commit, said late Friday afternoon. “And all of the good times we were going to have.”
Reinisch not only lost his final high school baseball season, but was also a starting member of Shenendehowa’s basketball team that won the Section II Class AA flag, but never got a chance to play further when several winter sport championship events were first postponed and later canceled in March. At the time, Reinisch still had baseball to look forward to playing.
“All of our position players were returning,” said Reinisch, who was named a National High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason All-American. “We were expecting to have a lot of fun and win a lot of games.”
Christodulu said his team had put itself in a position to do that with its work ethic.
“This is a special group of guys,” Christodulu said. “They did everything we asked of them from the moment they stepped through the door.”
Fort Plain was another baseball team projected to do big things after losing only four seniors from its 2019 edition that went 21-0 before a state Class C quarterfinal loss to Ticonderoga. Similarly, Ballston Spa’s softball team lost out on an opportunity to go after the state championship that it came within one game of winning in both 2018 and 2019. The Scotties would have had a returning cast that included star pitcher Lauren Kersch, who hurled all 20 innings in a 2-1 state Class A semifinal win over Sayville last spring. In track and field, Schalmont sprinter Mia D’Ambrosio and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk pole vaulter Shane Racey won’t have the opportunity to add more state track and field championships to their credentials after both seniors won state indoor titles.
The last Section II teams to compete were the Schalmont boys’ basketball team, and the Averill Park and Mechanicville girls’ basketball teams in regional semifinal games March 10, and all three prevailed before postseason competition was put on hold and eventually canceled. The Schalmont boys were one more win away from their program’s first state final four berth since 1996. Meanwhile, Mechanicville coach Blain Goverski never got another chance to coach his daughter, senior team scoring leader Charli Goverski.
Seven other Section II basketball teams never got to play again after winning their area championships. The group included the Cambridge girls who were favored to repeat as the state Class C champ, and the Mekeel Christian Academy boys who had designs on winning the state Class A title after taking the Class B crown in 2018.
The Albany Academy boys, led by state Class A Player of the Year Andre Jackson, never got a chance at their fifth New York Federation Tournament of Champions basketball title when that event was canceled.
The Bethlehem hockey team won its first regional game in program history, but was denied its first final four appearance when state winter championships in that sport and bowling were also called off.
Those teams and athletes were only a small selection of those that missed out on the opportunity to compete for something significant at the end of the winter season or throughout the spring. Instead, now, those athletes will simply keep working to stay ready for whenever their next opportunity to compete arrives.
“Right now, I’ll keep doing what I have been doing. Working out,” Reinisch said, echoing the sentiment of many student-athletes. “That’s all you can do.”
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.