SOUTH DAYTON - Pine Valley Central School was buzzing Wednesday afternoon as both the baseball and softball teams were victorious Tuesday in their respective Far West Regional games.
The softball teams sets out for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four in Queensbury while the baseball team travels to Binghamton for games Saturday.
Softball coach Danielle Arnone got to watch her sisters win three straight state championships in basketball at Pine Valley, but never made it past the Far West Regionals when she was a basketball player.
Now Arnone gets to compete in the Final Four as a softball coach.
"I told (the team) they were state championship material at the beginning of the year," Arnone said. "They have known I felt that way. I wanted to give them the experience that my sisters have had with winning state championships in basketball and me being a fan. I was one of the girls who was that close to getting past the Far West Regionals, but couldn't quite get there. There is conversation of regret and how I can't take that back. I hope they learn from my experience and having those emotions that I went through not making the state finals when I was in high school. I am just happy the girls have been able to take themselves this far."
And while Arnone was focused on her softball team, she watched the baseball team from afar as she teaches some of the baseball players in school.
"I know that they had big shoes to fill from last year and when you lost such great athletes, it's hard to fill shoes," she said. "Tyler Swanson has done a great job. He has come a long ways. Some had low expectations for them this year and they have done a great job. I think (the baseball and softball teams) have a lot of similarities on how things have gone this year as far as people not expecting much from either team - especially us. It's nice we are here together."
The baseball team returns to the Final Four for the second time in as many years. And as the Panthers recorded the final out Wednesday, the usually reserved coach Chris Buczek showed emotion he rarely shows after a win.
"It just seemed that a lot of things were lined up against us (Tuesday)," he said.
"Each one of those kids overcame each piece of obstacle with class. My emotion was just how happy I was for those kids. We were down 2-0 and the guys didn't quit on each other. They hung tough and fought through it. Swanson bore down and did what he was supposed to do. Just the emotion they showed in that setting overtook me. It was just perfect. It's hard to find the words for it. It was just awesome. To do it at a Section 5 location, to beat the team we lost to two years ago, everybody was against us and to come out on top was just phenomenal."
And like Arnone has kept an eye on the baseball team, Buczek has also kept tabs on the softball team this year.
"You look at the team on paper and you see all the potential in the world," Buczek said of the softball team. "I think everybody, including me, can see the potential. Finally at the start of the playoffs, they have recognized it and flipped that switch. We knew they could do it and the potential was there and now they are doing it. We are surprised two teams are going to states. They found their potential and it's shining through now.
"They are working their kinks out and got people in position and it came together at the right time - just like us," Buczek continued. "The nod goes to two great pitchers with Swanson and Wilcox. The way Jessica has come through lately is crazy. She has a great presence of her. She's always positive and just a little fire to her and is always ready to go. That's her place and that's what she is supposed to be doing. It's so much fun for us because our story is so similar. The records are different, but the story is similar."
Buczek has also been a mentor of sorts to Arnone and the two have had conversations throughout the year on each other's squad.
"Ever since I started coaching softball, Chris has been there for me in terms of being able to have someone to go to with so many questions," Arnone said. "Coaching is a whole different level. He has been a great mentor for me the past few years and taught me a lot. I take a lot of things he does and put them into my own play. He is huge about being the best you can be. That's true for any athlete. Chris has been great. I couldn't thank him enough for what he has done for me."
"I think we are both each other's biggest fans," Buczek noted. "We talk throughout the season about ups and downs. When it comes down to it, we are each other's biggest fans."
And though the two teams will be playing roughly four hours apart Saturday, they will keep close tabs on each other's run to a state title.