Honestly, it took me about three games to realize that Pearl River coach Chris Woolgar wore the same outfit every game — like, the exact same outfit; right down to the undershirt under the undershirt and the windbreaker pants — and it was around then that I heard other people talking about it.
Then again, their comments were more along the lines of, “Isn’t he hot in that?” seeing as how the second-year coach wears three layers of shirts, even in humid conditions. “He wears it every game,” another said. I always like trying to find out the backstories with team quirks — whether it’s a handshake, a pre-at-bat routine, the go-to track on the gameday playlist — so when for my state tournament preview on Pearl River, Woolgar’s trademark ensemble was a no-brainer, for me.
I don’t want to spoil too many details (you can click the link about to read the article), but yes, the outfit is lucky. Woolgar said he wore it his first game and the team started 14-0, so he stuck with it. Two years later, the Pirates own a 47-6 record, two section titles and two regional titles, so something’s working.
I’m never one to knock someone’s superstition. I had plenty of them growing up — from running out of the dugout and hopping off the first- or third-base bag (whichever was closest to my dugout) before going to my position, to having a pack of Swedish Fish before every PAL basketball game — so if nothing else, I’m intrigued by them.
Hopefully you’re intrigued by the article. Below is a preview of the Class A tournament, which begins Saturday morning.
Class A state semifinal
Pearl River (24-2) vs. Section 2’s Averill Park (24-1)
When: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Where: Moreau State Park, Field D
Players to watch: Pearl River — Jules Madigan, Sr., CF; Colleen McCoy, Jr., 3B; Emily Turilli, So., P. Averill Park — McKenzie Bump, Sr., SS; Tori Fisher, Jr., 1B; Caraline Wood, Sr., P/1B. Starpoint (NYSSWA rank: 2) — Allison Block, Sr., P/SS (20-1, 0.86 ERA, 154 IP, 239 K; .606, 27 RBI, 27 R, 43 H); Maddie Bufalino, Jr., 1B (.433, 15 RBI, 15 R, 26 H); Victoria Purucker, Sr., C (.458, 22 RBI, 28 R, 33 H). Clarke (NYSSWA rank: 4) — Sarah Cornell, Jr., P (Hofstra commit).
Outlook: Averill Park is the top-ranked team in the state and hasn’t lost since April 29. Like Pearl River, which has scored the winning run in the final inning in its last three games, the Warriors narrowly escaped the section, walking-off against Troy in the section final. Neither team should run away with this game, which should come down to who executes the fundamentals best.
Pearl River could’ve easily lost each of its last three games, but found a way to win — “found” being the operative word. Whether one team is more talented than the other, or the two are evenly matched, when it comes to this stage of the game, the most successful teams will usually be the one that refuses to give in and/or finds a way to come out on top.
From the research I found on Averill Park and what I know about Pearl River from seeing it five or six times this year, these seem like two very similar teams on paper. The Warriors get solid production from the middle of their order, while the Pirates have been getting offensive contributions from, well, everyone — from leadoff hitter Caroline Alicandri to Madigan, the No. 9 hitter. Pearl River has speed sprinkled all through its lineup, which, in a game that could be decided by one run, could be the difference maker.
Pearl River is terrific at manufacturing runs, and it has the defense (including the pitching of Turilli) behind it to get by with only a couple of runs on the scoreboard.
Up next: The winner will play the Starpoint (Section 6) vs. Clarke (Section 8) winner in the state championship game at 1:30 p.m. on Field A.
Offhand, I want to say that Pearl River would probably want to face Clarke over Starpoint, but I won’t know which team will pose the best matchup for the Pirates until I see them play. Pearl River’s focus is Averill Park, as it should be, so it will likely worry about the state final if and when it advances.