Marlboro softball captures Class A state title

By Kyle Adams
Posted 6/12/24

It has been a long time coming for the Marlboro softball team. Over the weekend, Marlboro seniors Leah Gunsett, Kalista Birkenstock and Madison Gibney made their third straight trip to the NYSPHSAA …

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Marlboro softball captures Class A state title


It has been a long time coming for the Marlboro softball team.
Over the weekend, Marlboro seniors Leah Gunsett, Kalista Birkenstock and Madison Gibney made their third straight trip to the NYSPHSAA championships with the Lady Dukes, and this time around, they finally reached the top of the mountain.

“It’s funny because the first time we were here, we lost in the state semifinals,” Birkenstock said of her sophomore year. “Then the second time we lost in the state championship and now the third time we won both. It’s just funny how it worked out, but it’s great to be able to come back here and take it all.”

On Friday Marlboro took on an undefeated Ichabod Crane (Section 2) in the Class A semifinals at the Martha Avenue Recreational Park on Long Island. The Lady Dukes scored two early runs and never looked back, picking up a 2-0 victory. They moved on to face Section 11’s Miller Place on Saturday in the state championship, earning a 4-1 victory in the finale.

Friday’s victory over Ichabod Crane served as a bit of payback for the Lady Dukes, who were eliminated by the Riders in the 2023 state championship game. Ichabod Crane, who had won back-to-back state titles, it was just their second loss in the last four seasons.
“They haven’t stopped thinking about it since this time last year,” said Marlboro coach Andrea Schoonmaker. “It was fuel to the fire. We wanted to make our comeback. They kept saying it was our comeback tour, and it was.”

“It’s a great feeling to be able to hold them to no runs,” Marlboro junior Emma Jackson said of defeating Ichabod Crane. “They’re an amazing team, with a great offense, great defense and great pitching. Knowing we were able to do this, it makes me feel confident about our team, going into the championship game.”

In the top of the first inning on Friday, Birkenstock singled and then stole second and third base. She scored on an error, providing Marlboro a 1-0 advantage.

In the second inning, Marlboro added its second run, as Gibney drove in Lily Sullivan with an RBI single.

In the circle, Gunsett was able to preserve the complete game shutout, allowing five hits and two walks over the seven innings. She recorded five strikeouts.

Gunsett worked out of a jam with runners on second and third in the bottom of the first inning. She also avoided any damage in the fifth, when the Riders got two runners on, with one out.

In the seventh, Ichabod Crane (23-1 overall) was able to bring the tying run to the plate, but eighth-grader Kiera Del Salto made the play at third base to end the game, sending Marlboro to the Class A championship game.

“We wanted to keep the momentum on our side the whole game, that was our goal, and we succeeded,” said Schoonmaker. “We’ve been preaching to the girls that you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t belong here. You have the talent, the skill and the family connection with each other that you need, and they know they’re meant to be here.”

In Saturday’s state championship, Marlboro (22-3 overall) came away with a 4-1 win over Miller Place (18-5 overall).

Marlboro got on the board right away, in the top of the first inning.

Following a leadoff walk to Birkenstock, she came around to score on an error on a bunt by Jackson, as the Lady Dukes took a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Birkenstock singled, stole second, and scored on an RBI single from Taylor Castellani.

While Miller Place got a run back in the bottom half, Marlboro tacked on two more in the top of the fourth. Kaitlyn Gordon drove in Samantha Maleck on an RBI groundout, and Del Salto scored on an error, as the Lady Dukes took a 4-1 lead.

After Miller Place scored its run in the third, Gunsett got on a roll, retiring 13 of the next 14 hitters she faced to close out the game, with the lone baserunner coming on a walk.

“I just know that even if a player does get on from a hit or anything, she’s not going to let them continue their momentum,” Birkenstock said of Gunsett. “She’s going to shut it down.”

“I was taking it slow all game, pitch-by-pitch. Before every pitch I would breathe,” Gunsett explained. “We do this thing where we breathe in and then say “ooosshaaa” when we breathe out. I did that three times before the last pitch and it really calmed me down.”

After forcing a pair of groundouts to start the seventh inning, Gunsett recorded a strikeout to finish things off, clinching Marlboro its first state title since 2016.

“It was just another day at the office. We’ve been here in these pressure situations before and we know what it feels like,” Gunsett said. “This year I’m just happy we didn’t crack under the pressure.

We made the plays and got the job done.”

“It was an amazing, the best day at the office,” Gunsett added. “Time to retire, though.”

With a long bus ride ahead back home, Birkenstock was hoping her team’s celebration would include a stop for a treat.

“Hopefully [we’ll celebrate] with some ice cream,” Birkenstock said.

“We’re going to have a great time on the bus, probably play some music and sing.”