Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top 10 stories of 2009: No. 7 - Mechanicville softball wins NYS title

Mechanicville sophomore Anna Arceneaux guided the Red Raiders to their sixth state championship of the decade, this their first in Class B.

For the second consecutive season Arceneaux guided the Red Raiders to a New York State championship, this time Mechanicville’s first in Class B. The team had won five Class C state titles since 2000 prior to 2009. She went 17-1 in the pitcher’s circle, striking out 1.4 hitters per inning. At the plate, Arceneaux hit .472 with 28 runs scored and 27 runs batted in. She was named co-New York State Class B Player of the Year.

Her father, Don Arceneaux, was named the New York State co-Coach of the Year in Class B.

The Mechanicville bench rallies during a crucial Colonial Council game against Lansingburgh late in the 2009 regular season.

If there was a team of the decade from the Capital Region, it would be hard to pick against the Mechanicville girls. They're nearly flawless on the field, playing sharp defense and knowing how to manufacture runs when a runner gets on base.

Shannon McBride split some of the pitching duties with Arceneaux this season and she was also one of the team's best hitters. Kelsey Hines delivered the power for the Red Raiders and hit a mammoth shot against Fredonia in the state finals that just somehow missed clearing the fence.

Alysa Russel and Abby Maiello also provided a spark with speed and solid defense at third base and center field, respectively.

With plenty of young yet experienced players returning when the snow melts in 2010, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see the Red Raiders challenging for another title at the start of a new decade.

Mechanicville may be the gold standard by which all other teams are judged, but plenty of teams around Section II also played very well in 2009.

Troy High senior Shannon Jones shifted from center field to shortstop and continued to rake at the plate, swinging her way to a scholarship at Siena College.

Jones, The Record's 2009 Player of the Year, was simply astonishing. Jones had 38 hits in 70 at-bats, hit eight home runs, scored 38 runs and drove in 29 for the Flying Horses, who won a fourth consecutive Big 10 Conference regular season title.

Jones’ slugging percentage (the number of total bases per at-bat) was a jaw-dropping 1.185 and she reached base at a 71% clip. Her prowess in the batter’s box was so well-known that many pitchers never gave her anything to hit, figuring a walk was a better decision than letting Jones swing away.

"Sometimes it was frustrating because I want to help the team out by getting a hit and getting things started," Jones said.

In Class C, Hoosick Falls won its first Section II championship since 1993 and its first regional crown since 1988, thanks in large part to the dominant pitching of freshman sensation Rachel Quackenbush, leaping for joy above.

The Panthers were always a fun team to watch because you knew Quackenbush would only give up a run or two, at best. How their offense responded was another matter.

She took matters into her own hands in the regional final against St. Lawrence, smacking the walk-off double in a 4-3 victory over the Larries. Our photographer J.S. Carras got a wonderful shot of the bench erupting to welcome Jenna Priore at home plate with the game-winning run.

Quackenbush finished with a 22-4 record, struck out 334 hitters in 181 innings and was named to the New York State Class C first team. At the plate, she collected 38 hits and drove in 18 runs.

Hoosick Falls fell in the NYS Class C semifinals to Rhinebeck, but like Mechanicville, the Panthers should again be one of the favorites to win a Section II title in 2010.

Lansingburgh's Meg Volz is all laughs after being congratulated by Sarah Cipperly during a game in 2009. The Lady Knights didn't repeat as Colonial Council champions, but they wound up with a Section II Class A title after topping South Glens Falls in the championship game.

Senior pitcher Erin Glikes, who finished with the following stat line: 19-5, 0.66 ERA, 239 Ks (163 inn), batting average allowed .127, was the anchor of another solid Lansingburgh squad. The Lady Knights weren't as smooth in the field as they were in 2008, but they sure could hit the ball.

Head coach John Cipperly relied on a crew of dedicated assistants and volunteers and was named The Record's Coach of the Year for his efforts.

Jenna Servidone earned Suburban Council MVP honors and carried the Blue Devils to the NYS Class AA semifinals.

The Columbia High team also had a very notable season, escaping the Suburban Council and the tough Class AA bracket in the Section II tournament.

Servidone went 18-5 in the pitcher’s circle with a 0.89 ERA, striking out 175 in 156.2 innings. She also hit in the cleanup spot in Columbia’s order, driving in eight runs and connecting on 19 hits. Servidone was a second team Class AA All-State selection.

Sam Chevalier, the senior shortstop, also provided a ton of senior leadership for the Blue Devils.

My favorite part about this year's Columbia team was head coach Gary Holtz tuned down his intense football instincts and let his natural coaching abilities take over. His players loved playing for him and responded with clutch play throughout the postseason.

Softball just might be the most successful sport in Section II, in terms of teams from this area that continually advance deep into regional and state competition. With many of these players returning in 2010, it looks like the best is yet to come.

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