SOUTH GLENS FALLS – Those Drama Queens from Williamsville South authored the perfect ending to their softball season.
It’s the one that had coach Julie Murphy wiping away tears during the championship celebration. It’s also the one that enabled seven seniors – Emily Martin, Megan Mingle, Courtney Gracz, Bri Clark, Samantha Moon, Morgan Maley and Stephanie Tirone – to leave a legacy of their own with the Billies program.
Williamsville South posted two comeback wins here at Moreau Recreation Park to capture their first New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship in eight years. South secured the Class A crown by delivering an unquestioned 21-4 beatdown of Section XI champion Sayville, a game in which the Billies had to overcome two early deficits before using a nine-run third inning to not only take the lead for good but also break the Golden Flashes’ spirit. That happened after the Billies used another seventh-inning rally to overcome II-Troy, 7-6, in the semifinals.
It’s South’s fourth state championship, but their first since the passing of legendary coach Gerry Gentner, who guided the Billies to titles in 2000, 2004 and 2006. He lost his battle with cancer in January 2012.
“My dad, I know he is smiling down on us,” said third-year South coach Murphy, Gentner’s daughter, who shed tears of joy during the postgame ceremony. “Obviously I wish he were here to celebrate with us. I know he’d be so proud of the program, the girls and the coaching staff.”
“It’s just an amazing feeling knowing we did it for him and we did it for her,” said Tirone, the catcher who drove in six runs with a homer and two doubles to highlight a 4-for-5 effort in the championship game.
From the start of the season, Murphy repeatedly told her team that their goal was to win the last game of the season. Martin didn’t believe that would happen but started coming around two weeks ago when the Billies first earned their Drama Queens nickname.
In the Section VI championship game, they overcame a 4-0 deficit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh by scoring six runs – the final three on a walk-off home run by Clark to earn the 6-4 win over Starpoint.
Not sold? How about blowing a six-run lead in the final inning of Far West Regionals but finding the composure to still pull out the win in extra innings?
She’s a believer now, especially after Saturday.
Before a pro-Troy crowd in the semifinals, South fell behind 6-2 after 2½ innings. The Billies whittled the deficit to 6-5 by the end of the fourth inning. They left three on base over the next two innings but replied to those missed chances by getting three of their first four batters on in the seventh with Maley’s double driving in Martin with the tying run. Maddie Clark’s grounder to third was enough to plate Aimee Lavere with the winning run.
“I was just trying to put it in play,” Clark said.
In the final, South trailed 2-0 after one, 3-2 after 2½ innings, but never trailed again after a nine-run blitz in which the Billies batted around, collecting six hits, while taking advantage of two errors, a walk and a defensive misplay on a sacrifice. Martin and Tirone were the only players to drive in more than one run on hits during the onslaught as both crushed two-run doubles to the delight of the South faithful that made up the estimated crowd of 600 at the final. Martin and Maddie Clark (two hits, four runs, two RBIs) each scored twice in the inning.
South further put it away with five runs in the fifth to make it 17-4 as Tirone crushed a three-run bomb to left. Three batters later, Mingle hit a two-run homer. Moon earned the win in the final after being lifted early in the semifinal for Gracz. Carlie Scime had three hits, three RBIs and two runs as South (22-2) closed the season on a 17-game winning streak – the final four via comeback.
“That’s just how we play,” Tirone said. “We always play dramatically.”
“I never believed we would get to this point but we did,” said Martin, who finished 4 for 5 with four runs scored and three RBIs. “It feels unreal. I still can’t believe that we did it.”