Early in the shortened 2020 season, the Wallkill Panthers have already run the Section 9 softball gantlet.
They suffered big losses to Class AA Valley Central, a strong Saugerties team and then on Friday, fell 11-2, to the perennial Section 9 Class B power, Marlboro Dukes on Thursday.
The Dukes did most of their damage during a seven-run second inning against starting pitcher Jennifer Devens. Before anyone knew it, Marlboro had a 9-0 lead.
“Obviously, we got blitzed right out of the gate,” Wallkill coach Sean Murphy said. “Then we were able to shut it down. But they’re good every year. Their pitching was good. Defensively, they’re good. They hit the ball hard.
They’re a tough match every single time.”
Devens hit the game’s first batter, Kalista Birkenstock, and she came around to score on Kasey Conn’s triple. Conn came into score on Carly Correa’s groundout for a 2-0 Marlboro lead.
Conn delivered the big blow in the second inning, a two-run home run to center field driving in Elizabeth Leduc, who drove in two runs with a single. Ava Del Salto tripled home two runs and then scored on a throwing error, before Shayna Norton came in to get out of the inning.
“We could have crawled up into a fetal position and let yourselves get rumbled, but then Shayna came in and settled things down,” Murphy said. “Defensively, they played well. They fight. They’re not just going to roll over and die off. I love this group. It’s what they do, so I’m confident that it’s going to get better as it goes on.”
The Panthers got themselves on the board when Emma Spindler drove Sera Goering home with an infield single, but RBI singles by Birkenstock and Conn put two more runs on the board off Norton, who finished the second inning.
From there, Norton held the Dukes scoreless.
“She just seemed like she was just hitting spots,” Murphy said. “We like the quality of the contact she was getting because there were fewer rifle shots, and she throws a little bit harder than Jennifer. Jennifer’s got a little bit better off-speed stuff. Shayna hates her change up. So that’s been a fight with us for four years to try to get her to throw it a little bit more, and she’s finally starting to get comfortable.”
The Panthers added a second run in the sixth inning off Marlboro’s Leah Gunsett, as Norton led off the inning with a single and then came around to score on Emma Bohlinger’s groundout.
Even though they’ve lost three games by double digit figures, Murphy said he tells his girls that those three losses shouldn’t define their season.
“It’s just a day and one that doesn’t define our season,” Murphy said. “We have three losses this season, and one of them is to a Double-A, Valley Central team that’s outstanding. One of them is to Saugerties, they’re just going bombs away on everybody and one of them is to Marlboro, who’s consistently, not only in Class B Section 0 champion, but they consistently make noise in the state playoffs.”