Things never were that bad for the Franklin D. Roosevelt softball team. With the benefit of hindsight and an outside perspective, perhaps, it’s easier to appreciate what has been an excellent season.
Not so much for those involved.
The Presidents were stung by those two lopsided losses to Saugerties, the second of which denied them a division title and a berth in the Mid-Hudson Athletic League tournament last week. It was an opponent they crushed in April, but faltered against twice down the stretch.
“It was frustrating after such a great season to not even qualify for MHAL,” said Roosevelt coach Kristi Coughlin, whose team lost in a tiebreaker play-in game. “But missing the tournament gave us some time to take a deep breath and regroup.”
It also forced them to turn their attention to the sectional tournament which, of course, is the greater goal.
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The coach also made lineup changes, reconfiguring the defense and altering the batting order, with the intent of creating a spark. One constant, though, was Aliya Feerick batting leadoff.
“She’s been our leadoff hitter since I pulled her up to varsity in seventh grade,” Coughlin said. “She sets the tone for us.”
The slap-hitting speedster has been the ignition of this team and that was again evident Tuesday, when she helped Roosevelt beat fifth-seeded Goshen, 6-4, in a Section 9 Class A quarterfinal.
Aliya Feerick went 2 for 2 with two walks, a stolen base and two runs, and helped kickstart a five-run fifth inning. Her power-hitting sister, Jess Feerick, was 3 for 4 with two doubles.
“Her speed creates a challenge for any defense,” Coughlin said of Aliya Feerick, a junior committed to St. Thomas Aquinas. “Every opponent knows she’s one of the fastest kids in the section, so her being on base gives us options and gives them something to worry about.”
And, hitting better than .700, she usually is on base, setting the table for a team that still is averaging 10.4 runs per game.
The fourth-seeded Presidents advanced to face No. 1 Minisink Valley in a semifinal at 4 pm Thursday. That will be a rematch of the final last spring when Roosevelt captured its first title since 2009.
“Minisink has some great hitters, but if we come in confident and play a clean game, we can win,” Coughlin said. “The Class A bracket is a very competitive field, and I don’t think there’s a clear favorite.”
Saugerties entered red hot, having steamrolled through two top-seeded teams in the section to win the MHAL title. But they were stunned by Rondout Valley in the quarterfinals.
Roosevelt, too, was in some danger of being upset as Goshen carried a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning.
But Alex Pfitscher walked to load the bases, following singles by Jax Sweed and Aliya Feerick, then Cali DeLawder hit a two-run single for the lead. Jess Feerick then doubled, and another run later scored on an error. The Gladiators rallied in the sixth and Kylie Rodrigues’s RBI double pulled them within two, but right-hander Kayla Baez held them there.
Erika Punkosdy went 1 for 2 with a walk, and Pfitscher was 1 for 2 with a walk and a run. Baez allowed six hits in a complete game for Roosevelt (15-3).
“They took the changes in stride and responded well,” Coughlin said. “They looked more like the team we had been through most of the regular season. It’s a young group, but they’re mature and very competitive.”
That always has been the case. Many of them, since the eighth grade, have made it a routine to travel around the Hudson Valley and watch other good teams, particularly upcoming opponents, to scout and help Coughlin in her game-planning. They, no doubt, have done their homework on Minisink.
“Every year since I’ve been coaching, we’ve faced Minisink in the playoffs in some round of sectionals,” said Coughlin, whose team overcame its nemesis last season and returned most of the core from that championship squad. “We want to prove that us winning it last year wasn’t a fluke.”
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4