Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
KINDERHOOK – On a day when the Ichabod Crane softball squad was nearly perfect, the Riders found a jaw-dropping way to secure a Class B state championship when junior left fielder Lauryn Heffner made a spectacular game-ending catch.
Heffner’s successful sprawling stab provided a most memorable conclusion to a 2-0 title triumph over top-ranked Susquehanna Valley at Moreau Recreational Park.
Gloves went skyward, hugging was rampant and tears of joy flowed freely for the Riders as they capped their 2018 campaign in high style to complete a record of 22 wins and one loss. The two wins Saturday procured the program’s second Class B title since 2015.
“It is awesome to go out with a bang,” Ichabod Crane senior pitcher Calista Phippen said.
“It feels amazing. Non-stop crying,” Ichabod Crane junior shortstop Gabbie Cox said.
After the awards ceremony on the field and a photo session at home plate, the Riders departed the field. Phippen, who was oh-so-close to a flawless Saturday, spotted her father and gave him a quiet hug. Seconds later, Phippen shared an embrace with Marist softball coach Joe Ausano, her future coach.
“That was exciting,” Phippen said.
Phippen, who tossed a no-hitter with 20 strikeouts earlier in the day in a 5-0 semifinal victory over Olean, finished the championship game having allowed only a bunt single to Hallie Martin in the top of the sixth. She struck out 13.
“I put a lot of effort in, but my teammates put in just as much,” Phippen said. “They had my back the entire time and I could not be more proud of them. I am just so happy that we could do this all together.”
In 14 innings of action Saturday, June 9, Ichabod Crane made just one error. Several other teams from Class AA through Class D could not make the same claim.
“We talked at the beginning of the season and I told them that we have a lot of work to do,” Ichabod Crane coach Tracy Nytransky said. “We did not play defense that well at the start or bunt too well either. That is stuff that we weren’t as intense on. They thought they were good. They had to learn to work for what they got. They worked hard the last month and it all paid off.”
The Riders showed they have refined handling the little things. In the bottom of the sixth inning facing Susquehanna Valley senior pitcher Sophia Pappas, Ichabod Crane constructed a rally that began with a double by Cox.
The junior swung through the first offering from Pappas.
“I had to get focused,” Cox said. “The third pitch, I went to left-center and it got us going. We started from there.”
Phippen, the team’s No. 3 hitter, successfully bunted for a single. Kali Saccento followed by bunting home Cox for a 1-0 lead. Three batters later, junior Kylie Rivers delivered another bunt RBI single to plate Phippen.
All that was left was for Phippen to record the final three outs of her distinguished scholastic career. The hard-throwing righty finished her senior season with a 22-1 record, a 0.09 earned-run average and 357 strikeouts in 148 innings. She threw two perfect games, seven no-hitters and gave up just 23 hits in 23 games.
“Mind-blowing. Really mind-blowing,” Phippen said when attempting to sum up her career. “I never imagined we would do anything like this.”
When Ichabod Crane captured its first state championship in 2015, Phippen did not even understand the concept of the Section II Tournament let along the complexities of the state event.
Three years later, Phippen completely understood — and embraced — the gravity of Saturday.
“She wanted it more,” Nytransky said.
“I was a lot more composed this time,” Phippen said.
To contact reporter James Allen email