Historical Season Ends in State Semis for Walter Panas
Panthers’ Magical Runs Ends in 6-0 Loss to Eventual State Champ Williamsville East
By Tony Pinciaro
As the Panas varsity softball team began preparation for the 2019 season, one thing was on the minds of seniors Gianna Servedio and Isabella Feraca.
“Ever since Bella and I became part of Panas softball one of our goals was always to win a section title,” said Servedio, who will attend Hunter College in the fall and play also play softball. “This year we brought the energy we needed to make noise in Section 1 and compete along great teams.”
Panas coach Dale Chappelle was confident, with seven returning starters, that his team would be a sectional contender. However, his team exceeded his wildest thoughts.
Servedio and Feraca were instrumental, as were their teammates, in leading Panas to the Section 1 Class A championship.
Even though Panas lost last Saturday in a NYSPHSAA semifinal to eventual champion Williamsville East (27-0), it does not take away from what the state-ranked (No.4) Panthers accomplished.
The Panthers, who were seeded 10th, won four road games against, No. 7 Nanuet (6-0), No. 2 Hen Hud (4-1), No. 3 Pearl River (3-1) and beat intra-district rival and undefeated Lakeland, the No. 1 seed, 7-3, for the title.
Panas received a bye into the regional final where Olivia Bordenaro shut out Section 9 champion Minisink Valley, 2-0, and senior/centerfielder Bri Viola made the catch of the year, preserving a 1-0 lead in what can only be described as an historical season.
“I honestly thought we had the talent to compete for the sectional title, but the state semis, it never crossed my mind,” said Chappelle as his team finished with a 16-10 record.
Panas, as a result of its tough schedule, especially within its league, completed the regular season with an 11-9 record. The Panthers’ record was deceiving because their league games included two each against Lakeland, Yorktown, Somers and Brewster.
The final regular-season record only earned Panas the 10th seed, but the Panthers knew they were better than their record indicated.
“In the regular season we hadn’t found our grove as a team and we weren’t as close with each other as we were towards the end of the season,” said Feraca, who will attend the University of Rochester in the fall and also play softball. “Going into sectionals, we all were much closer than before and all our heads were in the same place. So, overall I think the chemistry of the team finally showed and proved we were a team to be reckoned with.”
Panas faced a difficult road going into sectionals knowing that it would not play a home game because of its seed. Following the first-round win against Nanuet, the seeds held true and Panas would need to beat the top three seeds – Lakeland, Hen Hud and Pearl River – in order to win a title. The three teams each won 20 or more games.
“Being on the road gave us all the opportunity to rest and settle the butterflies,” Feraca said. “And, honestly, after doing so poorly at home, I think that we all felt more comfortable with the road and it let us focus more on what’s ahead.”
Panas accomplished what every softball team sets out to do in sectionals and states, put all three facets together — offense, defense and pitching – and it resulted in a major run.
Bordenaro was outstanding in the circle, quieting opposing bats, while the offense produced timely hits and the defense was air-tight.
“Looking back on this run, there are so many clutch moments that helped us reach the next level,” Chappelle said. “I can only describe it as magic. It seemed like we were playing better away from home and we embraced it quickly. And, it was always somebody new who stepped up. This is what makes good teams great.”
Williamsville East solved Panas in a semifinal then went on to shut out Ballston Spa (Section 2), 3-0, in the final.
“They got the bat on the ball when they needed to and came up with big runs,” said Servedio of Williamsville East.
Servedeio, Feraca and their classmates — Jenna Guevarez, Tahari Williams, Lexi Lorino, Sam Mills and Viola — graduate soon, but the seniors’ have left a lasting impact.
“This class is special,” Chappelle said. “They really saved our program when they were in middle school. Our numbers were down and we were close to folding our JV team. But this class showed up and played for many years on the high school teams. I call them “The Movement.” Who knew it would lead to this. It was just awesome and I’m glad they got to go out this way!”
“I couldn’t imagine a better end,” Feraca said. “Being in this program that used to struggle to have a winning season to becoming section and regional champs is something that never would have crossed my mind. This season will definitely be remembered not only by the team but also by the school for many years to come.”
Servedio agrees and is hoping for a repeat in 2020.
“We are so lucky to have came this far and proud to have been part of this amazing team,” she said. “The future is bright! I’d love to see Panas back at states next year!”
Even though the season just concluded Saturday, Chappelle is excited about spring 2020.
“We return a lot of key parts, including the pitcher/catcher battery,” said Chappelle of Bordenaro and catcher Kat Reynoso, not to mention slugging SS Julia Petrovich. “There are some big holes to fill in the lineup, but this recent run has brought a new sense of pride to Panas Softball and we look forward to facing that challenge.”