Friday, August 1, 2008

Classie Lassies Eyeing National Titles

William Montgomery

The Record

It is national tournament time for youth softball teams around the country and a trio of homegrown teams from Wynantskill is hoping to continue to extend the legacy of the Classie Lassies girls softball league.

The Classie Lassies are sending a 10-and-under team, the Aftershock, to York, Penn. for the Eastern National Championships after the team placed third in the New York State Tournament on June 29. A 12-and-under team, the Lightning, is also bound for York to complete in the nationals and the league’s 14-and-under All-Stars, nicknamed the Thunder, are competing in Sterling, Va.

The Lightning automatically qualified for the tournament because the Classie Lassies 10-and-under team won a national championship in 2007 and a good number of those players now compete on the 12-and-under squad.

Caraline Wood, Rachel Apfel and MacKenzie Bump are three of the top players on the 10-and-under team, coached by Keith Akots. Jenna Miner and Hannah Filuta are also big contributors at shortstop for the Aftershock.

Shannon Johnson is the leading pitcher for the 12-and-under Lightning and stands to see most of the time in the pitcher’s circle in their tournament.

The 14-and-under team, nicknamed Thunder, feature Troy High players Julie Brinkman, Gabby Daniels and Liz Belleville. Belleville, a sophomore-to-be, played first base and pitched, guiding the Flying Horses to their third consecutive Big 10 title and went 12-7 with a 2.50 ERA in the pitcher’s circle, earning recognition on The Record’s All-Area team in 2008.

The Thunder went 7-0 in the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) New York State Tournament in Saratoga in late June, capturing the New York State title. A state championship earned the team a berth in the ASA’s National Tournament, which concludes this weekend in Sterling, Va.

In their first day of the 26-team double elimination tournament, the Thunder beat the Gainesville Gladiators (Va.) 9-1 and the Pennsylvania Renegades 7-3. Brinkman pitched in the opener against Gainesville and Belleville entered the circle in the second game.

“They’ve been together since they were 10 years old,” said Thunder head coach Matt Brinkman. “Five years now. They play together well and by this point, they know each other well.”

Emily Johnson, a freshman-to-be at Tamarac High and Molly Fryer of Averill Park are also standouts on the team. Amanda Agee, who played on the Ichabod Crane JV squad in 2008, is the team’s third pitcher.

All three tournaments the Classie Lassies teams compete in conclude on Aug. 3.

Softball has been a mainstay in Wynantskill since 1974, when the Classie Lassies league began with about 150 players. Now, the league has its own field complex on Edwards Road and a year-round schedule of clinics and practices.

“We started small, but we’ve been up to 500 kids for about five straight years,” said league President Doug Baldrey, who has been a board member since 1986. “We’re really big in the younger age groups and I think it’s a good feeder program.”

Baldrey got involved with the Lassies when his sister played and has been the league president off and on since the mid 1980s and has been on the board in all but one of the last 22 years.

Since the girls can play on school-affiliated teams beginning in middle school, the Classie Lassies provide an alternative for girls that would otherwise be playing Tee-Ball or Little League with the boys until then.

There are a number of other local softball teams competing in national tournaments, including the Brunswick Blast and the Lansingburgh Lady Royals. But those teams are handpicked, comprised of the top players from around the area – the Classie Lassies teams are All-Star teams of girls only from Lassies league teams.

And as softball has grown in popularity opportunities for teams have expanded as well.

“It used to be just the ASA,” Baldrey said. “But with PONY, Fastpitch and other leagues, there are more nationals to go to. ASA is still considered the premier tournament to go to.”

The ASA, however, has changed its rules as more and more teams enter competitions. Oklahoma City was once the site of a true nation-wide championship each year, but the ASA has instituted four regional-national tournaments: north, south, east and west. So there are actually four national champions, one from each region.

The tournaments are purely a fun journey for the girls – there are no college scouts taking notes in the stands, only families cheering their daughters. Ceremonies are scheduled, as the players bring pins to trade with opponents and they all get together for a barbeque social after the tournament.

“It’s more about the experience of going,” Baldrey said. “It’s about being there and seeing that caliber of softball. It gives them an idea of how good they really could be and the mindset of ‘I really need to strive for more. What do I need to do to get there?”

Visit for more information on the organization.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great but its McKenzie and not MacKenzie..Cheers!!!

July 20, 2009 at 10:55 PM 
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