Softball: Seward dethrones five-time defending champ Pine Plains to win Section 9 title

·5 min read

MIDDLETOWN - Katie Mulhare has vivid memories of that loss, remembering herself as a heartbroken eighth-grader after S.S. Seward had its sterling run ended when it collided with that blue and white wall.

The frustration increased as each softball season would yield the same result, with a section final loss even more lopsided than the first.

“It really gets to you, every year, getting this far just to lose to the same team,” the senior said. “You feel like, even with all the hard work, you’re not really making any progress.”

Dynastic teams tend to have that effect on opponents. Pine Plains has been a local leviathan, not only winning five consecutive section titles, but steamrolling most small-school competitors and leaving them to wonder if victory even is possible.

Until it happens.

Mulhare delivered the go-ahead hit in the sixth inning as Seward rallied from down five runs to dethrone Pine Plains, 7-5, Friday in the Section 9 Class C final.

SS Seward celebrates their victory over Pine plaines in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record
SS Seward celebrates their victory over Pine plaines in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record

“This feeling is incredible,” Mulhare said after helping the Spartans capture their first championship since 2009. “These are the kind of moments you dream about, and we finally got it.”

Seward (17-1) will face Yonkers Montessori, the Section 1 champion, in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Middletown High School.

The fourth time was a charm for Seward, which had lost to the Bombers in each of the last three section finals. They were outscored by a combined 27-0 in the previous two meetings.

Seward's Katie Mulhare dives for the ball in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record
Seward's Katie Mulhare dives for the ball in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record

It had been so bad, actually, that it made their early five-run deficit Friday feel almost like a step in the right direction.

“They beat us 13-0 last year,” pitcher Kailey Stolowski said of their perspective. “You kind of look at five runs like, ‘It’s not that bad.’ Plus, we’ve made bigger comebacks than that. We had a positive attitude the whole way.”

And they chipped away with two runs each in the fourth, fifth and six innings — stringing together hits, capitalizing on fielding miscues and, ultimately, thriving in the clutch.

Abby Orlando singled to left, driving in Taylor Vogt with the tying run in the sixth inning. Vogt had singled, stolen second and moved to third on Brook Irazarry’s bloop to right. Mulhare followed with a single to left that scored Irazarry to give the Spartans a 6-5 lead.

Seward's Kailey Stolowski pitches in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record
Seward's Kailey Stolowski pitches in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record

“All I’m thinking after I got that hit was, ‘We’re winning this game!’” Mulhare said. “At that moment, I could feel it. I knew we were gonna win.”

They were even more confident in the seventh, when Irazarry lined a single to center that sent Haley Carmack home for an insurance run.

Kailey Stolowski allowed five hits, three walks and four earned runs and struck out 12 in the complete game. But, the left-hander gave up only two hits and fanned five in the last four innings, enabling her team to charge back.

After Brooke Sikula’s RBI double gave the Bombers a 5-0 lead in the third, Stolowski seemingly found a rhythm and insisted to herself, “I won’t let us get down anymore.”

“They’re a very good team and they’re gonna continue to be good,” said Pine Plains coach Les Funk said of Seward. “They’ve got key players coming back, so if we’re able to get back here, there’s a good chance they’ll be the team challenging us again.”

Pine Plains had reached at least the state semifinals in the three seasons before the pandemic and again was a favorite to power through this region.

SS Seward celebrates their victory over Pine plaines in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record
SS Seward celebrates their victory over Pine plaines in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record

“We’re a much better team now than before,” Mulhare said. “We took a big step and we thought this year we could beat them.”

Mulhare went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run and was hit by a pitch. Camila Fuentes drove in two runs, Kailey Stolowski was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI, and Kaitlin Stolowski was 2 for 4 with a run.

“I’m so happy and proud of the way our whole team responded when we were down,” said Kailey Stolowski, who rushed to hug her father afterwards. “Everyone contributed to make this happen.”

Chloe Baden’s two-run triple put the Bombers on the board in the first inning, and she scored on Eliza Baden’s single.  Eliza Baden was 2 for 2 with a walk, two RBI and a run. Lily Fanea went 2 for 3 with a double.

The Bombers graduate only two seniors, but Lourdes Belanger and Emily Lindquist are stars who were foundational pieces in the building on that dynasty. As the team huddled in the outfield after the final out, some tears initially were shed at the realization this was the sad ending of an era.

Pine Plain's Lordes Belanger connects to the ball in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record
Pine Plain's Lordes Belanger connects to the ball in the Section 9 Class C Softball Championships in Middletown, NY on May 27, 2022. ALLYSE PULLIAM/For the Times Herald-Record

The seniors, Funk noted, have been on the varsity team so long that even assistant coach Alex McKenzie is a former teammate of theirs. “Being the leaders they are,” he said, “they said some things that got the younger players laughing.”

Pine Plains’ roster featured mostly a core of juniors with a handful of middle-schoolers, which bodes well for them next season as the youngsters figure to mature and improve.

But, they’ll likely have to deal with an obstacle along their path: a blue and orange wall.

Stephen Haynes: shaynes@poughkeepsiejournal.com; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Softball: Seward dethrones Pine Plains to win Section 9 Class C title