Lady Lions savor the taste of victory

By Mike Zummo
Posted 5/29/24

Bend, but don’t break.

That has been the Chapel Field Lions’ motto in the latter part of the 2024 softball season.

The Lions on Friday tested just how far they could test that, …

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Lady Lions savor the taste of victory


Bend, but don’t break.

That has been the Chapel Field Lions’ motto in the latter part of the 2024 softball season.

The Lions on Friday tested just how far they could test that, bending nearly to the breaking point, but managed to hang on for the Section 9 Class D softball championship with a 6-5 win over the Eldred Yellowjackets at Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh.

“It feels so amazing I can’t even explain it,” senior Emma Spanjer said. “Our softball team has been struggling the past couple years, and we broke through the bad streak, and it just feels amazing because I started pitching on the varsity team as a sophomore.”

Now, coach Bill Spanjer, who coached the Lions to New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008, now has a Section 9 championship with his two daughters, Emma and Abigail.

“It’s awesome,” coach Spanjer said. “I regret that my daughters didn’t get to play on those teams. I always regretted that, so just even to have this taste of victory with a nice crowd in a big game, nerves were high. To know what that feels like and to get the W for them, I’m really happy for them.”

Emma admitted to feeling some of history’s pressure.

“He never lets me forget it,” Emma Spanjer said. “So, it does feel a lot of pressure to have on our shoulders with your dad having all those big state championship wins, but it feels so good to even have the small one. It just feels amazing.”

There was some nervousness in the first inning, even after the Lions took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Megan Winter scored on an error.

Emma Spanjer struggled, walking the leadoff batter, gave up two hits, hit a batter and an error led to three Eldred runs.

The Lions got two runs back in the third inning when Christina Quirk drew a bases loaded walk to score Emma Spanjer and Abigail Spanjer scored on a wild pitch. The Lions took advantage of more Eldred mistakes to take the lead in the fifth inning when Megan Sayles singled with one out and Quirk doubled, putting runners on second and third. Sayles scored on a wild pitch and Quirk scored on a throwing error by Eldred catcher Sydney Furler, giving the Lions a 5-3 lead.

“Our girls found a way to put a couple of runs up and took advantage of some of their passed balls,” coach Spanjer said.
They tacked on another run in the sixth inning when Abigail Spanjer blasted a double to center field, scoring Skylar Robinson to give the Lions a 6-3 lead.

“We do hitting drills and we do little competitions between the team, and she’s only an eighth grader, but she always wins the competitions and puts me to shame,” Emma Spanjer said. “So, it made me so proud as a sister to see her be able to do that in a section final game.”

The Lions needed all of those runs, as a base hit and an interference call gave the Yellowjackets two early runners that both scored. Then with two out and nobody on, an error by Robinson at shortstop extended the game. Emma Spanjer struck out opposing pitcher Chloe Warming to end the game.

“I talked to them after the first inning and I said, ‘we can’t have a worse inning than that,’” coach Spanjer said. “We almost tested it in the last.”

With the win the Lions will advance to the NYSPHSAA Class D regional championship on Friday against Section 9 champion Deposit-Hancock at Greenlight Grand Slam Park in Binghamton.

“Let’s take the challenge,” coach Spanjer said. “We’ll see what we can do.”