Garnet Raiders Win Class AA Softball Title

group of softball players with their trophy
Times Union photo

Times Union Story …

Two tight sectional victories put the Colonie softball team in position to claim a Section II Class AA softball championship Tuesday afternoon. The Garnet Raiders made sure the final was anything but close.

Colonie used a three-run home run by Jaclyn Dyer in the second inning to take the lead and blew the final against Bethlehem wide open by scoring nine runs in the third inning, including two home runs from senior catcher Chloe Vanburen, in a 17-4 victory at Luther Forest Complex that ended after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.

“This is the wildest,” Vanburen said. “I have been dreaming that we would win a sectional title. It came true.”

“I am just really happy. I don’t really know how else to describe it,” Colonie sophomore pitcher Carly Gemmett said. “I am shocked and am really glad we are here.”

Tuesday’s decisive win against the Eagles, a team Colonie split two Suburban Council games with this season, was in stark contrast to the champion’s first two playoffs wins where the Garnet Raiders edged Shaker 2-1 in the quarterfinal and Shenendehowa 4-3 in the semifinals. This time, fourth-seeded Colonie (14-7) pounded out 14 hits in earning the program’s first sectional title since 2010.

The Garnet Raiders advance to a state quarterfinal contest Friday at Carrier Field in Syracuse vs. perennial Section III power Cicero-North Syracuse (20-3).

“There is no point in stopping now. We’ve got here, so let’s keep going,” Colonie senior center fielder Ciana Phillips said.

Anyone that witnessed Colonie perform against Bethlehem (12-7) understood little could stop the Garnet Raiders.

Phillips opened the game with a double and scored on an RBI single by Dyer in the top of the first.

“We wanted to get on them early,” Colonie first-year coach Sean Merchant said.

“We just came out with a bunch of energy,” Vanburen said.

In the second inning, Phillips singled with two outs to put two runners on base for Dyer, who ripped a shot to right against Bethlehem freshman starter Anna Cleary that just cleared the fence.

Vanburen led off the top of the third with a solo home run and later added a titanic three-run blast for her fourth home run in the playoffs.

Gemmett, who allowed six hits, could not even be upset Bethlehem scored three times in the fifth as it was not enough to prevent the mercy rule from going into effect.

“Carly has pitched well all season, but come sectional time, she certainly stepped up when it counted,” Merchant said. “For a sophomore to be able to pitch that well in big moments speaks a lot to who she is.”

Colonie traversed a most interesting season path to reach the conclusive portion of their Section II campaign. The team won its first three games of the season, dropped two nonleague games and came back to win two more Suburban Council contests to stand 5-2 overall and 5-0 in the league through seven games.

After 14 contests, however, the Garnet Raiders stood at 7-7 overall. The last three losses came consecutively, including a 16-4 drubbing in five innings at home against top-seeded Shenendehowa.

“They came in and (mercy-ruled) us. That definitely provided us motivation to come back and win,” Vanburen said.

“In the middle of the season, we had everything, but the fielding, hitting and pitching wasn’t clicking at the same time,” Phillips said. “One day, one (aspect) would be on. The next, another was on.

“To come back from where no one was expecting this, and then actually doing it, is just amazing.”