Little was expected of Baldwinsville Little League’s 14-16 softball team in mid-July when it entered the post-season phase of its spring and summer season – which only made the ultimate result that much more sweet.
By the time they were done, B’ville had won the Little League District 8 and New York State Senior Softball championship,s the first team in B’ville Little League history to ever take those crowns.
Under the direction of manager Ray Grabowski and coaches Chris Young and Brett Naylor, the team, was drawn from three different squads with Baldwinsville ties – the Little League program, along with ASA Travel Ball and School Ball.
The key to it was that it was a cooperative effort between the three groups, rather than a situation where they were competing for players. They also encouraged the girls to play as much softball as possible through the various age levels.
With a combination of players from Baldwinsville (home of the Bees) and Phoenix (home of the Firebirds, the term “Fire Bees” caught on as a team nickname.
Eleven players were on the Fire Bees’ roster, including Hailey Akmentins, Mackenzie April, Serena Capsello, Gabriella Hahn, Brittany Husted, Kenna Kelley, Jenna Kocik, Sarah Lalla, Sara Napelitano, Jessica Naylor and Christina Young.
As the team raised money for its various trips, a local company donated an unusual item. Dubbed “Steve the Tin Chicken”, it sat in the dugout for all of B’ville’s tournament games, causing a lot of strange looks from opponents.
More important, though, was what took place on the field. The Fire Bees first won the Little League District 8 championship, which helped them advance to the New York State Senior Division (age 13-16) Softball Tournament in Haverstraw, a a town in Rockland County in the lower Hudson River valley, just south of West Point.
At Haverstraw, B’ville was a decided underdog against more established and accomplished teams from other parts of the state, especially Long Island.
But once the tournament began July 19, the Fire Bees displayed its quality, especially at the plate, where it pounded out runs in an opening 17-9 romp over Valley Stream and continued to hit well later in the day, even though it lost to Ellenville 12-10.
A hard-fought 7-5 win over Walkill sent B’ville into a championship-game rematch with Ellenville. This time around, it was the Fire Bees finishing on top, 13-6, adding a first-ever state title to its landmark district championship – a “Miracle on the Hudson”, as Grabowski described it.
With little time to savor this, B’ville took a longer trip – this one to Worcester, Massachusetts – for the East Region Senior Softball Championship Tournament, where play began on July 26, just five days after the triumph at Haverstraw.
At first, adrenaline worked for the Fire Bees as it beat Delaware 11-5. But then things cooled down as, two days later (July 28), B’ville lost to Pennsylvania 23-0.
Then, trying to stay alive in the tournament, the Fire Bees played close games against Maryland and New Jersey, but lost them both by margins of 2-0 and 6-4, respectively, for an overall 1-3 tournament record.
But those defeats could not take away from the remarkable success B’ville had already attained, with a notion that more victories can be attained in the years to come.