SOUTH GLENS FALLS — As the LaFargeville softball team received its runner-up certificates following a 13-2 loss to Deposit in the state semifinals Saturday, tears flowed freely from their eyes.
It wasn’t just that they couldn’t advance to the championship game, it was the realization that for the senior-heavy squad it was, finally, all over.
“They’re family, and it’s tough to see them go,” coach Danielle Wallace said, also with tears in her eyes. “They’re pretty heavy hearted right now over this loss. They knew that today, eventually, it was going to end, I don’t think we saw the score. We didn’t project that coming into this. We just weren’t as sharp as we have been.”
Section 4’s Lumberjacks (20-0) proved why they’re the state’s top-ranked Class D team. Makenzie Stiles, the Gatorade New York State softball Player of the Year allowed seven hits and two runs while the Deposit offense recorded 12 hits and 10 walks that lead to the 13 runs.
Sarah Johnson pitched for LaFargeville (20-1) and battled for seven innings, remaining composed even as the Lumberjacks threatened. But a tight strike zone led to her walking 10 batters, a rare development for the left-hander.
“I think Sarah struggled a little bit with the strike zone we were given, we’re not quite use to the tightness of that,” Wallace said. “But it was the same strike zone, and it didn’t change and that’s not the deciding factor.”
Rachel Davis commended Johnson for her resiliency on the mound.
“I’m really proud of Sarah for everything she’s done throughout the years,” Davis said. “She’s really worked hard and today is not her fault and she really battled today. We were always behind her the whole time, and she really worked hard throughout the years to get where we are today. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her hard work on the mound.”
Despite the score, the Red Knights continued to remain positive. Every time Johnson would depart the circle and enter the dugout she would encourage her teammates to keep going, making sure to keep the morale from dropping.
“I know I need to stay up for my team, a lot of them look up to me,” Johnson said. “I know that I have to have a good attitude for them to have a good attitude.”
After being shutout for four innings, LaFargeville broke through in the fifth when both Johnson an Izzy Soluri drove in runs with two of the hardest hits of the game. At the time, the offensive outburst cut the deficit to 6-2. It also re-energized Johnson in circle.
“We were just trying to chip away each inning,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work in our favor, but we were just trying to chip away.”
It stings now but Johnson will never forget this team and this year, and not only because of softball.
This group of seniors who played soccer, basketball and softball together finished the 2018-19 school year with a 51-9 record.
“It’s emotional because we all grew up together and we’ve all been good friends for years,” Davis said. “Through the good times and bad times we’ve all come back as a team and had good times in the end. It’s just a really bittersweet moment and like I said before, I think we’re all just extremely grateful to have the experience to come here and to be able to play with each other for all these years.”
Before the Red Knights left the field for the last time as a team, they knelt down to take a picture with their state final four plaque.
“Let’s see some smiles,” a parent said. “You should be proud of how far you came.”