They were the little school that could. Cambridge, a Class C school in Section 2 defeated both a Class A team and a Class B team to win the fourth annual Ronald D. Papierniak Memorial Tournament on Saturday at Fonda-Fultonville High School. Cambridge topped the host team Lady Braves 7-4 in the championship contest.
“No one expected us to win this tournament,” Cambridge head coach Gerald Clifton said addressing his team after the game. Cambridge advanced to the title game by defeating Amsterdam 3-1 in the opening round.
It didn’t take long for Cambridge to get the bats going. The game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the second inning when Hannah VanDeWater got things started reaching base on a walk issued by Lady Braves hurler Brianne Egelston. Two pitches into the next at bat, Kayla Giglio lost the ball. She sent it skyrocketing into left field, so far that if there had been a fence it would have cleared it. Giglio hustled around the bases for the inside the park home run giving Cambridge a 2-0 lead.
“She just got a hold of it,” Coach Clifton said. “Kayla had been struggling but, she really got all of that one. She’s starting to come around.”
One out later another rally began as Erica Dupuis singled and Miranda Seacord walked ahead of a double by Victoria Dupuis that brought home her sister putting Cambridge up 3-0 and leaving runners at second and third for the next hitter, Autumn Clifton.
Clifton drilled a line drive to left field that Lady Braves outfielder Gianna Cruz chased down the line. The ball fell out of Cruz’s glove landing in fair territory allowing both Seacord and Victoria Dupuis to score for a 5-0 lead. It was the first of some of costly mistakes for the Lady Braves.
“Definitely some errors and we had some mental errors,” Fonda-Fultonville coach Kari Callery said. “That caught us off guard.”
The Lady Braves recovered as both Cruz and catcher Allie Krohn made big plays to keep Cambridge from increasing its advantage. Egelston settled down retiring the Cambridge bats in order in the third, and got a big play from Krohn, who threw out Seacord trying to steal second base after she led off with a single in the bottom of the fourth. The play gave the Lady Braves some momentum and they got the offense going in the top of the fifth.
Julianna Taylor drew a walk with two out and moved into scoring position when Cruz followed with a single.Taylor hustled home on a wild pitch by Seacord for the Lady Braves first run. Emily Parslow’s single plated Cruz inching the Lady Braves closer. Fonda was looking for a big hit and got one off the bat of Miranda Nethaway, who like Giglio did earlier, hit one into left field where no one could catch it.The play turned out to be the games’ second inside the park home run, and cut the Cambridge lead to 5-4. But just when things began to improve for the Lady Braves, the errors came back to haunt them once again.
Cambridge’s Amanda Brand reached base to lead off the bottom of the fifth, when her grounder to shortstop got under the glove of Parslow and rolled into left field. Grace Snyder followed with a double down the third base line that moved Brand to third. One out later Brand scored on a wild pitch boosting the Cambridge lead back to two at 6-4. Krohn kept Cambridge from doing any further damage by alertly firing the ball to third picking off Snyder for the second out. Parslow then made up for the error, by recording the third out of the inning fielding a sharp grounder off the bat of Giglio.
“A couple of errors hurt us,” Coach Callery said. “And we had some walks by our pitcher who struggled hitting her spots and that frustrated her a little. She wasn’t getting strikes.”
Egelston issued five walks on the day with three of them coming around to score.. The eighth grader struck out five while scattering eight hits including three singles in the seventh that produced the final Cambridge run.. Her counterpart Seacord, a ninth grader and in her second year on the Cambridge varsity allowed six hits with five walks and struck out seven.
“She pitched last year as an eighth grader,” Coach Clifton said of Seacord. “She’s just starting to come into her own here at the end of the season. Her curve ball is really working for her. Earlier today the Amsterdam coach (Brendan Cetnar) said to me that whatever she was throwing his kids had trouble with it. That was her curveball.”
Seacord kept her composure after the Lady Braves put runners on base in both the sixth and seventh innings by getting the last out of each frame on strikes. Fonda-Fultonville had the leadoff batter on in each frame but the Cambridge defense made some big plays of their own including catcher Autumn Clifton picking off Ally Putnam, who had strayed too far off first base in the sixth. The play was crucial because one out later, Haley Frederick launched a triple to center field.
“Our defense was excellent all day,” Coach Clifton said. “We have five freshman and only one senior (Autumn Clifton) in our infield and they are just starting to get it together.”
The Cambridge win meant that for the first time the championship would go to a team outside Montgomery County. The Lady Braves won the first two, and Amsterdam won it last year and took third this year winning the consolation game over Gloversville. Cambridge improved it’s record to 5-7 with the two wins. They had only one win in each of the last two seasons. The Fonda-Fultonville Lady Braves, who defeated Gloversville to advance to the title game will look to rebound when they return to Colonial Council action on Monday with a home game against Schalmont. The tournament was a win for the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District as all the proceeds go toward the Ronald D. Papierniak Scholarship, which is awarded to FFHS graduates each year. This year eight students will receive the award.
“We’re very grateful that they do this each year in memory of my dad,” Megan Papierniak said. “So many people donate their time and efforts. Last year the scholarship went to eleven students and this year eight will receive it. The fund is doing well.”
Author’s Note: Ron and Ann Marie Papierniak’s daughter Megan was only twelve years old when she played in her first Amateur Softball Association tournament for a team that I coached called the Amsterdam Athletics. It was the Summer of 2000 and the Athletics were part of an eight team field in a tournament at Moreau State Park. As always Ron Papierniak was there for the kids helping me as an assistant coach. The team played their hearts out against some pretty tough competition. It also gave me one of the scariest moments I’ve ever had as a coach. During a game against one of the top teams and with Megan pitching, a line drive hit her in the left shoulder knocking her to the ground. In the blink of an eye Ron was out of the dugout with me right behind him. Megan turned out to be fine and would go on to play varsity softball at Fonda-Fultonville starting as an eighth grader. Little did any of us realize at the time but four members of the Athletics would go on to play college softball, two at the NCAA Division 1 level including Megan who played at Saint Peters. And while the Moreau tournament didn’t provide any wins on the field for the Athletics, I remember seeing Ron in the dugout talking and laughing with the kids, and encouraging them to smile. He was always there for the kids even after his own had graduated from Fonda -Fultonville. That’s why we remember him, because he always wanted the kids to have fun and enjoy playing the game and of course, to smile.