FROM PRESS ROW: HORSEHEADS SPORTS UNDERSTAND THE TRUE MEANING OF TEAMWORK AS THEY HAVE DOMINANT SPRINGS
On paper it all seemed so unlikely.
The Horseheads softball team was going up against a Corning team ranked third in the state. A Corning team that won the last state championship that was played, and captured the past two sectional titles. A Corning lineup that has the Max Preps pick as the best player in the state batting leadoff.
Not only that, but the Blue Raiders found themselves in a 5-2 deficit with just five outs to go in the sectional final.
The thing about sports is, they aren’t played on paper.
The Horseheads softball team became the third Blue Raiders squad this spring to capture a Section 4 title when they rallied for a 7-5 victory on Saturday.
It’s been a remarkable spring for Horseheads sports.
The girls’ lacrosse team kept their dominance up in Class B as they won their fifth straight sectional crown, while the Horseheads boys reached the sectional final, falling to Vestal in that final.
The Horseheads girls’ golf team went unbeaten this spring and they captured the Section 4 title and had three individual state qualifiers, led by Brooklyn Moffe, who was tied for second at the sectional meet.
On the boys golf side Matt Printup orchestrated one of the most remarkable stories of the spring when he qualified for states, after missing more than six months after having surgery on a torn labrum in the fall.
In track and field the Blue Raiders have multiple athletes with a shot at states as they head to the state qualifiers on Wednesday and Thursday, including Axl Andrus, who had a blazing fast time in the 800 meters at the STAC meet, going sub 1:57 to set himself up as the top seed for the state qualifier.
The spring has been magical, and all of those performances were as impressive as they come, but what the softball and baseball teams did this year were the stuff of legend.
On paper the Corning softball and baseball teams both looked like they’d be tough to beat.
Both teams featured dominant stars. Atalyia Rijo is one of the best softball players in the country, a player headed to SEC power Arkansas. The baseball team has two Division I bound pitchers — Landen Burch and Aidan Chamberlin.
Both Corning teams had won two straight sectional titles. Both teams had won last year’s championship over Horseheads in the final.
Corning won the first baseball matchup over Horseheads this year and the first two softball matchups, but when it mattered most the Blue Raiders came up clutch.
The softball team dropped two regular season matchups, the first an 11-inning classic, before winning in the sectional final. The baseball team dropped the second game of the year at CCC against Corning, but then won the next two matchups, the first to force a one-game playoff for the division title and the second to win the division championship.
The Horseheads baseball team went to Myrtle Beach this year. They played some of the best teams in the country. They came home from Myrtle Beach and they haven’t lost a game since.
Horseheads beat Corning for the division title, they won two games in a day, without having all their best pitchers available, to win the STAC title, and then when Elmira beat Corning in dramatic fashion in the sectional semis the Blue Raiders had a pair of dominant offensive performances to win the best of three sectional title in two games.
The thing about the Horseheads baseball teams this year is they are the definition of the word team.
The Blue Raiders do not rely on one Division I bound senior ace. They don’t rely on one or two bats crushing home runs each game.
Both Horseheads teams are deep, 1-9 in the lineup all capable of getting big hits. They are both are aggressive on the base paths, putting pressure on defenses, and they both play good defense, and have multiple players capable of winning games on the mound.
For the softball team it was three different players hitting home runs in the final two innings to help lead the team to the win. And, it was the 7-8-9 batters in the lineup who all had hits in big moments, including the game-tying home run from No. 8 hitter Megan Wolf.
How balanced is the Horseheads baseball team? How about every single starter getting a hit and scoring a run in the the first game of the best of three sectional final?
That balance extends to every Horseheads team this spring.
Girls’ lacrosse had nine players scoring goals in the sectional final, while the Horseheads girls’ golf team had three players among the top nine at sectionals and the number four golfer tied for 10th.
This time of year many teams are done for the year, getting ready for the summer and to prepare for next school year.
But, the Horseheads Blue Raiders keep playing. Baseball, softball, girls’ lacrosse, girls’ golf and Matt Printup for boys’ golf are all still alive, headed to state play, while many other schools are done. Throw in track and field still playing, and Horseheads being the lone team in the area with flag football, a team that has improved leaps and bounds as the season went on, and you have a school that’s busy with sports at a time when most kids around the state are already thinking ahead to what’s next.
The reason Horseheads teams all have been so good this spring all comes down to that word team.
Don’t get me wrong, just looking at the recent college signing days you can see all the talent Horseheads has, but they also have groups that are well coached, well disciplined, team-first players who work well together.
When the games are on the line, every single person who has put on a Blue Raiders uniform this spring has had their moments.
From senior superstars like Riley Loomis, Alexis Guzylak and Eva Koratsis, to freshmen phenoms like Mason Holloway, Anna Lowe and Megan Wolf, the Blue Raiders have had veteran, and younger players step up game after game.
In states, the competition will be tough. Horseheads softball could face Monroe-Woodbury, the No. 1 ranked team in the state. Horseheads baseball faces a tough Roy Ketcham team as they have to play a sub-regional game to get to regionals and Horseheads lacrosse has to take on a team out of the always tough Section 3.
The challenges will the tough, but Horseheads has overcome tough challenges all year. The players will show up and know all they have to do is their job, because every one of their teammates will do theirs as well.
Win or loses in states the Blue Raiders will play hard every game, they’ll make their opponents work as hard as they have ever worked before, and they will leave everything out on the fields.
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