PLATTSBURGH — One year removed from a 9-0 loss to Chatham in the NYSPHSAA Class B regional final, the Saranac softball team is seeking a little revenge Wednesday.
The 22nd-ranked Chiefs (16-4) challenge the No.1-ranked Panthers (23-0) at Cardinal Park for 4 p.m., with a trip to the state semifinals at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury on the line.
Chatham, the Section II representative, is a combined 47-1 dating back to the start of the 2012 regular season.
“The first thing I’m trying to get my kids to do is relax,” Saranac coach Sam Campbell said. “If we get nervous and worried about them being 47-1, we’re already beat. The reason you play is — anybody has a shot. We need to relax, play defense, be patient with our mistakes and put the ball in play.”
Putting the ball in play, though, won’t be any easy task.
The Panthers, who bested Mynderse of Section V in the Class B state championship game a season ago, are led by senior pitcher Kayla Doty. En route to her team’s first sectional and state title in school history, she was honored as the 2012 Class B co-player of the year.
Doty signed a national letter of intent to play softball for the University of Connecticut in November 2012. She tossed a three-hit, 10-strikeout shutout against the Chiefs as a junior last year before firing 14 strikeouts against Canton in a 12-0 regional semifinal win Monday.
“Her control is very good to start with,” Campbell said. “She keeps the ball down, and she’s smart. She doesn’t pitch to the middle of the plate unless it’s a mistake. If she walks somebody, she knows her team will help her out in the field.”
Pacing Chatham offensively Monday were Michaela Smith, who racked up three RBI, and Kaitlin Pearson and Caitlin Gilligan, who each contributed two RBI.
“They have every aspect covered pretty well,” Campbell said. “They have kids who can bunt and run and kids who can drive the ball. It all depends on what kind of pitching they’re seeing for them to decide whether they want to play the short game or hit the deep ball. They’re capable of doing it all.”
The Chiefs reached the regional final with a 1-0 defeat of Peru in the Section VII Class B championship Thursday and had a first-round bye into today’s regional final.
Campbell will elect to pitch Kourtnie Campbell in the circle.
The senior, who sports a 12-2 record, delivered a no-hit performance in an 11-0 blanking of Northeastern Clinton in the sectional semifinals.
“She’s a senior, and she’s a big part of why we’re where we’re at,” Sam Campbell said. “I wouldn’t want to go with anybody else at this point.”
Kourtnie Campbell is capable of helping her own cause at the plate, batting .544 with five doubles and three triples through 17 games played. She also totaled 21 walks during that span.
Through 17 contests, senior Ashley Terry (.368 average, four doubles, two triples, home run), freshman Brette Campbell (.356 average, three doubles, two triples) and sophomore Tori Trim (.316 average, three doubles, two triples) were also productive at the plate.
Sam Campbell knows more than anyone else that he and his team will assume the underdog role this afternoon.
“I told the kids at the start of the year, ‘even though we had seven seniors graduate, the bullseye is still on your back,’” Campbell said. “I said, ‘everybody is trying to knock you off, but we’re a good team, and we can overcome it.’
“For us, we’ve accomplished two of our goals so far. We won the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference and then sectionals. But that part of the season is over. Now, the bullseye is on Chatham’s back.”