BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — An athlete’s final varsity season is supposed to be about reaping the rewards from years of hard work at the lower levels.
For Niskayuna’s Stacy Gordon, that chance hit a snag this spring. A senior set to play softball next spring at Lafayette College, Gordon — the Silver Warriors’ top hitter and pitcher — strained a muscle in her left biceps during her team’s first handful of games this season. The injury left Gordon, a lefty windmiller, unable to pitch for most of the 2015 campaign, limiting her to playing first base or serving as a designated player for a solid chunk of her final season for the Silver Warriors.
Jules Paul, her head coach, said the injury was a test for one of his senior co-captains, a chance to learn one of those life lessons that athletics offers to participants.
“It’s easy to be positive when things are going well or you’re up 10, 15 runs,” said Paul. “But, when you’re hurt, what’s your real attitude? That’s when a captain steps up.”
And Gordon stepped up. A happy Silver Warrior before her injury, Gordon kept the same smile-heavy appearance and enthusiastic demeanor throughout the weeks she couldn’t play her full role for her team.
Not that it was easy.
“[Getting injured] was really disappointing,” she said. “It’s every athlete’s nightmare, but I’ve just tried to roll with it. . . . It was only going to help our team if I stayed upbeat and was cheering them on.”
Gordon first felt pain in her biceps in late April. She was removed from pitching in a game and went to sleep that night with noticeable swelling and discomfort in her pitching arm. The next morning, things were worse.
“It was like a rock,” she said.
The injury left Gordon unable to throw with much velocity. She wanted to contribute in any way she could, though, so she stayed in the team’s batting lineup, where she hits in the No. 3 spot usually reserved for a team’s best all-around hitter.
“She’s a competitor and wanted to be out there — but we had to be smart,” Paul said.
Some games, Gordon got to play first base. Others, she sat the bench while her team fielded and she only hit. In both circumstances, she stayed positive and became a vocal cheerleader and an extra coach. Lauren Litz, Niskayuna’s other senior co-captain, took over the team’s primary pitching responsibilities and said Gordon helped her whenever she could.
“She’s always had great stuff she can point out to me that I can fix,” said Litz. “We’re always helping each other.”
Gordon returned to pitching May 8, when she threw a couple of scoreless innings against Ballston Spa. She is hopeful she’ll be back at full strength for the Section II Class AA playoffs, which start the week of May 18. Her club is likely to enter the postseason with a losing record and a low seed, but Gordon said she is confident her squad will make some noise in the playoffs when it is back at full strength.
“We’re definitely going to surprise some teams,” she said. “They’re not going to know what’s coming.”