Kasey Gilbride, Emma Romeo and Sam Duchemin have been called the "hub of the wheel" for the Pierson-Bridgehampton softball program.

The three close friends, who were members of a state championship field hockey team, now can add another crown to their kingdom.

The Whalers earned a 9-7 victory over Chester in the Southeast Regional Class C final Saturday at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue.

"They really put this program on the map," coach Melissa Edwards said of her "hub" players. "It's a credit to the kids."

Pierson-Bridgehampton (14-5) will face the winner of St. Lawrence Central/Greenwich at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Moreau Rec Park in Glens Falls.

Gilbride and Romeo, both seniors, were defensive standouts in the seventh. With runners on second and third and one out, shortstop Gilbride fielded a ground ball and threw home to Romeo, who threw to third baseman Meg Schiavoni for the second out, leaving runners on first and second. After Kasey Palmer singled to center to load the bases, Duchemin struck out Amanda Almodovar to end it.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I didn't want it to come down to anybody else but me," Duchemin said. "Emma just kept saying, 'Me and you, me and you.' We were both nervous, but she calmed me down."

What helped calm down Duchemin the most was her two-run single to cap an eight-run third inning that gave Pierson-Bridgehampton a 9-1 lead.

"Normally, we always have that one game where we all hit in one inning," said Duchemin, who allowed five earned runs, 11 hits and two walks, striking out five. "We finally did it. Everyone got up in that inning."

Gilbride led off the third with a single and scored on Romeo's single to give Pierson-Bridgehampton a 2-1 lead. The Whalers finished the inning with nine hits -- all singles -- and a hit-by-pitch.

"I trust them all to do their job and put our team where it needs to be," Edwards said. "They're there for each other. It's not always a pretty game, but they figured it out."

Now Gilbride is looking forward to accomplishing one more thing.

"The last two years, we've lost in the semis," she said. "We want to win two state championships in one school year."