Pearl River Head Coach Mike Carlacci knows this could have happened many times during the Pirates' run of four consecutive section championships.
Just last season, Pearl River held on to beat Beacon in the quarterfinals and needed extra innings to defeat Eastchester in the section championship game.
It finally happened Tuesday. Pearl River's run of championships came to an end with a 4-3 loss to Beacon at home in the section quarterfinals.
"Through the whole four-year run, we could have lost so many times. Games were even and we just pull it out," Pearl River Head Coach Mike Carlacci said. "It's a funny game and it's hard. The kids were really upset afterward. I said that shows how much you care and what makes you the players you are. It's tough when we didn't get the result we wanted."
Part of that was making four errors, unusual for such a strong defensive team. Part was the Pirates' explosive offense missing on some opportunities. The biggest may have been with the bases loaded and none out in the second inning. Sophomore shortstop Sam Alicandri hit a line drive, but Beacon's third baseman snared it just above the ground, touched third and tagged the runner coming from second base for a triple play.
"That's a huge play," Carlacci said. "The top of the order coming up with the bases loaded and nobody out. That certainly gets them out of a jam. The closer they keep it, the more life you give them. It was an unfortunate thing. The third baseman made a real nice backhanded stab on a low line drive. I could see the runners not realizing she caught it."
Just as they did in the quarterfinals a year ago, Pearl River took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning before Beacon rallied.
"It was eerily similar," Carlacci said. "Except last year, we held them to two runs in the sixth and they got three to tie it this time. The difference is they had a top pitcher last year. She was holding us down. This year, I think on nine of 10 days, we get to that pitcher more.
"The biggest thing was our offense struggled a bit. She certainly was not an overpowering pitcher. We just didn't make great contact all day, or we were hitting it right at them. We should have been able to push a couple more runs across."
That comes back to how easily a championship run can end.
"That's what I said to my team. That's why they play," Carlacci said. "You can hit the ball right at people. Or you don't hit as well that day. The ball is not finding holes. I don't think we did anything different. We just did not have the same result we normally have. We didn't play our best and they played great.
"They have to try to look at their season as a whole and realize how great they did."
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Carlacci said he spoke with many of the players Wednesday and they all spoke about how close the team was, more so than many other teams the girls had played with before. That makes dealing with losing such a large chunk of the team to graduation that much more difficult.
All five of the team's seniors were starters. Third baseman Amanda Hartigan and center fielder Kristyn Neroda were three-year starters. Left fielder Nicole Leote and right fielder Shannon McKiernan became starters as juniors and second baseman Katherine McLaughlin moved into the lineup this season.
"Shannon McKiernan was the MVP of the state championship team as a sophomore and she played in five games," Carlacci said. "Her personality cannot be replaced. There were great components to all of these kids. We're not going to be the same team. We're not going to replace Neroda's speed, Hartigan's glove, Shannon's personality, all the things Nicole can do. All the things Katherine does to drive the team.
"It's tough to replace them so we don't try to. It's going to be what can we put together to make us contenders."
Whether he wants to call them replacements or not, Pearl River is losing its entire outfield and an outstanding defensive third baseman. All were part of an extremely balanced offense, with contributions as follows:
- Neroda batted .375 with 17 stolen bases and 21 runs scored
- Leote batted .366 with two home runs, six doubles, one triple and 23 RBI
- Hartigan batted .352 with one home run, four doubles, 1 triple and 18 RBI
- McKiernan batted .295
- McLaughlin hit .296
"The concern next year is going to be depth," Carlacci said. "We've now lost a lot of players a lot of years in a row. Can you keep finding young kids to step in? We like the pieces we have in place. We have to make sure we can be nine or 10 deep with that."
The core of what Pearl River returns is a group of five sophomores who became starters this season -- Alicandri, pitcher/first baseman Mandy McCarthy, pitcher/first baseman Caroline Kardashian, catcher Deirdre O'Malley and second baseman Erin Woods.
McCarthy actually started as a DP late in her freshman season and continued to produce offensively in 2012, batting .400 with 10 doubles, one triple and a team-high 30 RBI.
But it was as a pitcher that McCarthy stepped forward the most. She alternated starts with Kardashian early on, but emerged as one of the elite pitchers in Class A. McCarthy finished the season 13-2 with a 0.82 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 102 innings pitched. Opposing hitters batted only .123 against her, a school record.
She was at her best against rival Tappan Zee, which will play Beacon today in the semifinals, pitching two shutouts, including one no-hitter, against one of the top teams in the section.
"I don't think she gets enough credit for how well she pitched those two games," Carlacci said.
Alicandri set one record and broke another. She batted .506, surpassing the .490 mark Shayne Burakiewicz hit in 1997. Alicandri's 27 stolen bases tied a team record held by current Pearl River assistant coach Kathryn Moore. Her .540 on-base percentage was third best in school history and 37 runs scored were second best in Pirates' history.
O'Malley also emerged as a threat with the bat, hitting .364 with two home runs, six doubles, one triple and 20 RBI.
Freshmen Jules Madigan and Katherine Gilbride could be two of the outfield options for 2013. Sophomore Alexa Murphy and junior Amanda Sullivan also saw some playing time this season.
"We are very confident in Mandy and Caroline," Carlacci said. "We will get good pitching. We have the main ingredients. This year, they could go play their roles. Next year as juniors, they will have to go out and lead us and be really good players for us."