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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 31, 2008
Local girls hold the key to softball gold
By Jordan Michael
BINGHAMTON “We’re waiting for the gold medal game, and what are my girls doing? They’re playing touch football with no shoes on,” said Adirondack Head Coach Mike DiNova.
The Adirondack softball team headed into its gold medal game against Western last Saturday with no worries.
“We thought positive and kept an open mind throughout the games,” said Meagan Butsch of Guilderland. “You can’t let yourself get nervous. If you do, things will start to backfire.”
The positive approach led to a 7-4 victory, and gold medal all around.
Butsch, 21, was one of three locals on the squad. Joining her were Amber Maisonet, 22, of Slingerlands and Gabrielle Elsbree, 20, of Albany. All three girls were starters in the gold medal game. Maisonet and Butsch both played in the outfield, while Elsbree caught the game.
After Central had claimed the bronze, it was Adirondack’s turn to dig for gold. The seven-inning match-up took place at Bagsai fields, just north of the State University of New York at Binghamton. Dust flew as the Sand Pro smoothed out the infield. A healthy- sized crowd anticipated the first pitch.
Adirondack was coming off its only loss of the tournament, a heart-breaking 6-5 decision to Hudson Valley earlier that morning. Meanwhile, Western was flying high after a big 7-3 win over Long Island.
“Western was hot going into this game. We had just suffered our only loss of the weekend. That loss just gave us more confidence,” said DiNova.
Adirondack and Western both sported 4-1 records. Adirondack was awarded home-field advantage because it had beaten Western by a score of 7-3 on the first day of competition.
“Every game is of equal importance. Beating Western the first time was huge. It gave us the tie-breaker for home field advantage in the final,” said Adirondack coach Wesley VanOrt.
After beating Western in its first game, Adirondack went on to win three in a row. Courtney Brinkman threw a one-hitter in a 9-1 victory over New York City; a hitting onslaught against Long Island, 13-2; and a two hit shutout of Central, 6-0.
Adirondack had a solid start to the gold medal game. The team made quick work of Western in the first half inning. Maisonet led off the bottom of the first with a walk and eventually scored the first run. Jennifer Granato brought Maisonet home with a single to right field. The northern girls were looking good with a quick 1-0 lead.
Adirondack pitcher Jennifer Mineau didn’t let a Western player on base until the top of the third. Things were quiet until the top of fourth. After a number of hits that went foul, Ashley Bonetto of Western blasted a home run just over the head of Maisonet in left field. The score was knotted at 1-1.
The blue and yellow caught fire in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring four runs. Butsch started it off with a single to right center. Soon enough the bases were loaded for Brinkman. She brought all the runners home with a triple to center field. Amanda Ferro rounded out the scoring with a double to right center.
The fifth inning would see scoring by both clubs. Mary Russell of Western hit a double that scored one run. Michelle Conners of Adirondack saved a run with a fantastic falling catch and added a two-run homer to center. Adirondack maintained a comfortable 7-2 lead, heading into the sixth.
Western was about to strike a comeback. Bonetto hit her second home run of the game, with a friend standing on first base.
“I can’t believe she hit two home runs, it’s quite amazing. They had a little comeback there. When you’re working behind the plate, you get to see everything,” said Elsbree.
This cut the Adirondack lead to three, with a score of 7-4. You could smell a comeback after the next batter walked.
Western sliced a ball to right field, but it was caught by the Adirondack fielder. She quickly threw the ball to first to double up the runner. The comeback by Western was no more.
Adirondack would threaten to score again in the bottom of the sixth with help from a Maisonet double to left center. They didn’t need it. Their defense was solid enough to close out the game and capture the gold medal.
DiNova has been to these games plenty of times, netting a gold with Adirondack in 2005. “This is the best team that I’ve coached in the games,” he said. “These girls really have heart. They weren’t going to settle for anything less than gold.”
The coach was actually more excited for his wife than anything. “I feel good for Dottie, my wife. She wasn’t here in 2005 because she was ill,” he said. “Now, she gets to see my team and I win gold.”
When the game ended, the celebration was subdued. “It’s exciting to win, for sure. We are really happy, but sometimes you’re too tired to have a wild celebration. We just played six games in three days, so jumping on each other’s backs might not be the best of ideas,” joked Maisonet.
Butsch and Maisonet both played softball at the University at Albany and are great friends. Butsch is going to be a senior, while Maisonet just graduated.
“It’s tough playing next to Amber in the outfield, she hogs the ball and steals my thunder,” said Butsch. “Just kidding, I love that girl. She’s an excellent player.”
Adirondack played hard and earned every bit of its gold piece. “It’s nice to have your hard work pay off. We got the job done throughout the whole tournament. We just go out there and play and have fun; we don’t focus on stats,” said Maisonet, who won a gold in 2005 at her first Empire State Games. “The second gold tastes better.”
Adirondack scored 47 runs in only six games. The team also had seven players with seven or more hits. Maisonet, Elsbree, and Butsch all had solid numbers and were a big factor in winning the prize.
Ed Wojcicki, who helped coach the Adirondack softball staff put his acclaimed beard at risk. “I told the girls that they could shave my beard at home plate if we won,” said Woicicki. Each player was more than happy to participate.
“It’s pretty funny,” said Elsbree. “He put us on the spot. We had to win the gold because we really wanted to get rid of the beard. It is kind of weird though. I’ve never seen him without one.”
“Obviously, Ed was looking for an excuse to finally shave his beard,” said DiNova. “I have this feeling like he knew we would win. Now, he has no beard.”