Haldane softball players competed with Putnam Valley
For the second season in a row, Haldane lacked enough players to field a varsity softball team. So, for the second season in a row, Haldane players suited up for Putnam Valley.
Senior Mary Mikalsen and sophomore Callie Sniffen were key contributors for the 2023 team, which doubled its win total from last year and made a run at the Section I, Class B title.
Mikalsen, a shortstop who will play next season for Siena College, was named to the All-Section section team as a junior. Sniffen, who played on Haldane’s junior varsity last year, said she was nervous about meeting her new teammates at the beginning of this season. But “we clicked right away,” said Sniffen, who plays first base.
Putnam Valley lost on Sunday (May 22) to Albertus Magnus, 7-2, in the quarterfinals to finish at 15-7. The team had seven wins in 2022 and two in 2021.
In the first round of the playoffs on May 19, Sniffen hit her 11th and 12th home runs of the season and Mikalsen was 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a 6-5 win over Pleasantville.
Haldane is not alone in finding it a challenge to field a softball team. Although the Blue Devils won six Section I, Class C titles in 10 years (most recently in 2019), participation has been falling across the state. Haldane also added a girls’ lacrosse team last year that plays in the spring.
Rena Finsmith, who has coached the Putnam Valley team for 11 seasons, credits her relationship with Nick Lisikatos, Haldane’s former softball coach, for the merger. She said her Putnam Valley players “opened their arms when Mary came to play with us last year. To see their progression as friends, not just teammates, has been something special.”
Katelyn Flanagan, a Putnam Valley player, said the girls from both schools are “one big family. Even if we make mistakes, we never get mad at each other.”
For Sniffen, playing on the merged team meant lugging three bags to Haldane, changing clothes after classes and traveling 30 minutes to Putnam Valley for practices and games (except one, which was played on May 13 at the Haldane field so Mikalsen could be honored for Senior Night). Finsmith and her teachers were accommodating when she needed to stay after school for tutoring and was late for practice, said Sniffen.
“The commute takes a lot of time off my day, but it’s worth it,” said Sniffen, who usually arrived home after 6 p.m. on practice days and later on game days.
Finsmith called Mikalsen a “generational-type player” who brought intensity to the team and “helped raise the bar” with her work ethic and hustle.
“I couldn’t be any happier than to have those two kids,” said Finsmith. “It’s been a great experience for me and for them, as well as the other kids.”