Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
KINDERHOOK – A new season began for the Ichabod Crane softball team April 4 afternoon and it resembled many of the Riders’ dominating campaigns of recent vintage as No. 4 controlled things inside the circle. The difference this time is No. 4 no longer is star pitcher Calista Phippen, who wore that number for four years and led Ichabod Crane to a pair of Class B state titles.
Isabella Milazzo, a sophomore making her varsity debut, is now wearing No. 4 and she fired a perfect game and struck out 12 in a game shortened to five innings because of the mercy rule. The performance was reminiscent of those turned in by Phippen, who has been one of the nation’s premier freshman pitchers starring at Marist College
“That was great,” Milazzo said. “On JV, it was pretty easy to get past everybody. I felt coming up to varsity, it would be a lot harder to throw the ball by people and get my ball to spin in a way where they can’t hit it.”
Holy Names could not hit Milazzo and the Riders’ first win of the 2019 season also proved to a milestone triumph for veteran coach Tracy Nytransky, giving her career win No. 300.
“It is really cool, and I am glad no one told me it would be her 300th win because I probably would have been, ‘Oh my God.’ I would have been nervous,” Milazzo said.
“It is a culmination of everybody being in the program. It has been a long time,” Nytransky said. “Obviously, I have been here for a while. We’ve had good JV coaches. We’ve had great assistant coaches. The kids put the time in. We have built the program from the ground up. Everybody in the community is invested in what we have here — that we’re striving for a certain level. We want to keep it that way for a long time.”
Phippen, the 2018 Times Union Small School Player of the Year, led the Riders last spring to the program’s second Class B state title since 2015. Six starters returned from that squad, but losing a standout such as Phippen meant the 2019 squad would be searching for a new star pitcher.
Milazzo certainly couldn’t have done much better in her first varsity start. She struck out the first six batters she faced, including winning full-count battles in the first inning against Olivia Caporale and in the second inning vs. Molly Sweeter.
“Before going out there, I thought, ‘This is my first varsity game, I hope this goes well. After the first couple of innings, I thought, ‘You’re fine,’ ” Milazzo said.
Nytransky allowed senior catcher Jenna Downey to call the game and Milazzo settled into an excellent groove that did not dissipate. The sophomore completed her perfect game by striking out Sweeter on an 0-2 offering.
Milazzo, who will share pitching duties with junior Marissa Wheeler, said she was thrilled to land the No. 4 jersey Phippen wore from 2015-2018. On the JV team last year, Milazzo wore No. 15.
“I got lucky. It worked out that way,” Milazzo said. “I really went into the season wanting to get No. 4. It started out as my older sister’s number. She gave it to Calista. She is someone I have loved and is amazing. I thought, ‘I need to be No. 4. I need to get No. 4.’ I am so shocked I got it. It worked out really well.”
Emma Scheitinger played shortstop and led off for the Riders. The eighth-grader made her presence felt as she reached base safely in all five plate appearances and scored four runs. Scheitinger singled twice and capped her afternoon by ripping a three-run double in the fourth.
Ichabod Crane led 9-0 through three innings and erupted for 11 runs in its final turn at bat in the fourth inning.
“We didn’t have to play much defense the past four years with Calista,” Nytransky said. “We’re going to have to hit the ball now and play a little more defense. The game plan changes a little bit, but we still have very high expectations.”