Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blue Devils and Lady Knights moving on to Section II title games

Columbia third baseman Hillary Faas dives to rob Bethlehem's Mary Beth Dombrowksi of a base hit in the third inning of Tuesday's game at Veeder Park in Colonie. Faas made a great scoop in the seventh as the Blue Devils played flawless defense behind starting pitcher Jena Servidone in a 4-0 Section II Class AA semifinal victory. (all photos by Tom Killips - The Record).

Columbia (18-6) advanced to face No. 6 Niskayuna in Friday’s Section II Class AA title game at Clifton Common. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Columbia turned 12 Bethlehem ground balls into outs and Servidone added six strikeouts in her second shutout of the Eagles this season. The Blue Devils players were laughing and joking and having a great time all afternoon, which left them comfortable and carefree to play great defense in the field.

"You just know it’s coming," Faas said. "You look at someone like that and you just have to be ready. I’m down and ready and you just have to be prepared for that kind of play."

Columbia's junior pitcher Jena Servidone winds up during Tuesday's game at Veeder Park. In 21 innings against the Eagles this year, she allowed eight hits and a lone, controversial run in a 1-0 defeat at Columbia on May 13.

"Our defense was rock solid today," Servidone said. "Everyone played great. Hillary (Faas) made three or four great plays at third and we’re going to be tough to beat when we play that kind of defense."
Columbia catcher Shannon Dougherty connects on an RBI as part of a three-run second inning for the Blue Devils against Bethlehem's sophomore ace Toni Edwards. Edwards did not allow a baserunner past second base after the second inning, keeping the Eagles in the game.

The Blue Devils last appeared in a Section II title game in 2003, when they lost to Shenendehowa. The Lady Plainsmen went on to win the next six in a row, but they were knocked out by Niskayuna in the quarterfinal round.

"Bethlehem is going to be a force to be reckoned with, they are so young," said Columbia head coach Gary Holtz, "just as Niskayuna is going to be a force to be reckoned with."

Holtz said he's seen a lot of changes in the game over the years, perhaps the biggest being the tendency for girls in recent years to split off to different summer teams in the offseason. In the past, a high school team used to stick together as a unit, even in the summertime.

But, with a little bit of fun and a little bit of leadership, the Blue Devils have put together what has been a winning mixture so far.

"I give Sam Chevalier, as our captain, all the credit in the world for bringing these kids together and for getting them on the same page," Holtz said. "She does the little things. She knows what’s going on. She may be the best leader I’ve ever had."

Lansingburgh catcher Meg Volz applies the tag to a Ichabod Crane baserunner in Tuesday's Class A semifinal at Veeder Park. The Lady Knights put together a great comeback rally to post a 6-4 victory and advance to Friday's championship game against No. 1 seed South Glens Falls.

Lansingburgh's designated player Sam Mattey (18) motors down the baseline in Tuesday's game. She finished with two hits and two RBI in the victory.

Lansingburgh senior pitcher Erin Glikes fires towards home plate against Ichabod Crane. She saw the Riders post a four-spot in the third inning but watched as her teammates put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth.

"It’s amazing," Glikes said. "I’ve been varsity since seventh grade and this is my fourth semifinal and I’ve never made it to the finals. I really wanted to get this for us."

It certainly doesn't get any easier for the Lady Knights. South Glens Falls has won the past four Section II titles in Class A and went on to win the state championship in 2007.

"They certainly have the experience of being in championship games," John Cipperly said. "They’ve been in all of them and we’ll be up against that experience. We know that they graduated some kids from last year who were prominent players. They have the advantage of being the top seed, but once you get to the final - it’s on neutral territory. We know have an experienced pitcher and we’ll just go from there."

Be sure to check out the full story on both games in Wednesday's edition of The Record.

Updated Section II softball brackets.

Updated Section II baseball brackets.

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