QUEENSBURY, N.Y. -- It has been a season of ups and downs for Pierson/Bridgehampton softball, as tragedy struck in the midst of the program's greatest season.
Last month, the father of coach Melissa Edwards died in a car accident. Tuesday, the Whalers won the Class C regional final. Other firsts include their Long Island championship and their trip to the state tournament.
The season ended Saturday with a 12-1 loss to Greenwich in the state semifinals at the Adirondack Sports Complex. P/B finished with a 13-7 record.
"These girls just had the heart to do it," Edwards said. "As far as this season, it was very tough on my girls emotionally. This wasn't the best we could play, but you know what, they got here, and I'm proud of them."
Greenwich pitcher Rachel Albrecht had 14 strikeouts and carried a perfect game into the fifth inning before Bridget Canavan lined a double to leftfield.
Dani DeGregory hit a grand slam in the fourth to give Greenwich (19-8) a 6-0 lead. Trailing 12-0 in the seventh, Pierson/Bridgehampton shortstop and League VIII player of the year Kasey Gilbride smacked a solo home run over the centerfield fence.
Gilbride, who Edwards described as the team's "pit bull," made sure the Whalers went out in style.
"She was a very good pitcher with a lot of movement, which we were not used to," Gilbride said of Albrecht. "But I wanted to go out with a bang and make my team proud."
The Whalers acknowledged that nerves played a role during their early-inning struggles. By the time they got it together, Greenwich had put the game out of reach.
"They had been here before, and we hadn't," senior pitcher Melanie Stafford said. "Jitters got to us, and we were swinging at things over our head. Toward the end, we started getting our bats on the ball."
Stafford and her teammates had been riding an emotional roller coaster since the death of her father, Charles Edwards. They rallied around their grieving coach and took the program to unprecedented heights.
"We went into each game playing for coach Edwards and her father," Gilbride said. "We do believe that we had help each game and that he was rooting for us and helping us out. We also wanted to make her proud, each game, each pitch. It was definitely a motivator for us."
Added Stafford: "We wanted to show her that she has taught us a lot. We wanted her to know that we are a product of her. She has done so much for this team."
Edwards said her team provided her with a sense of catharsis. After missing a week of practice to attend to family matters, she returned. And in coming back to coach, she found the emotional support of 14 girls. And those 14 girls rewarded her with a season to remember.
Said Edwards: "These girls kept me going this season through everything, and I can't be any more proud than I am."