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Democrat Photo by Lori Brown

COACH MARY FEUSNER, right, and players, from left to right, Lynn Welch-Goldstein, Allison Helthaler-McCarthy and Tonya Ackerley-Martin stand under the plaques from their 1986 softball season when they won the Western Sullivan League, Section IX and New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championships.

Former Lady Bears
Reminisce About 1986

By Lori Brown
GRAHAMSVILLE — March 28, 2006 – As the 2006 high school softball season is set to get underway next week – weather permitting, of course – some members of Tri-Valley Central School’s 1986 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class D Softball Championship team recently got together with Coach Mary Feusner to reminisce about that special season.
Feusner and those former Lady Bear players looked back at their past experiences and memories by perusing the pages of a team scrapbook. The members of the 1986 T-V team – which continues to hold the distinction of being the only Sullivan County squad to have ever won a state softball championship – included: Tonya Ackerley-Martin, Trish Barkley, Barbara Bingham, Kim Bingham-Martin, Heidi Blade-Hewlett, Mandy Blade-Samai, Kelly Bonnell, Toni Catino, Allison Helthaler-McCarthy, Kim Lepke, Leigh Shaddock-Huebsch, Tina Tremain-Shultz, Lynn Welch-Goldstein and Lisa Yager.
The 2006 season will be Feusner’s 29th as head coach of the T-V Lady Bears softball team.
Looking back on the 1986 title game that was played in Johnson City, Feusner recalled being mobbed by parents and spectators at the end of the title game. T-V, which won the second of what would become four consecutive Western Sullivan League (WSL) titles with a perfect 11-0 record, ended that season with an overall record of 22-1. In the championship game, the Lady Bears beat the defending NYSPHSAA Class D champion Afton Lady Indians, 2-1, when Kim Lepke scored the winning run on an error in the bottom of the seventh inning.
(Several years ago, Afton Central School, a Chenango County district whose sports teams compete in the NYSPHSAA’s Section IV, changed the nickname of its sports teams from “Indians” and “Lady Indians” to the “Crimson Knights.”)
In 1985, T-V won the Section IX title to reach the state softball tournament. But the Lady Bears were defeated before reaching the state final four. Feusner said that she believes the major goal of the players on that 1986 team was to return to the state tournament and finish what they had started the previous year.
“Sophomore Tonya Ackerley-Martin was the best pitcher around,” Feusner said.
During the first game of the final four against Section I Tuckahoe in the Eastern Regional finals, Ackerley-Martin had 16 strikeouts. She and catcher Blade-Hewlett carried that momentum into the next game against Afton.
There are still several members of the 1986 title team living here in Sullivan County and the surrounding area. Many of their children are following in their mothers’ footsteps by playing softball. Helthaler-McCarthy, Ackerley-Martin, Bingham-Martin and Lisa Yager are still playing competitive softball. Blade-Hewlett lives in Pennsylvania and coaches in the junior high school softball program at the Wayne Highlands School District in Honesdale, Pa. She also conducts pitching clinics for her alma mater.
“I remembered being very nervous up to bat,” Helthaler-McCarthy said of the title game against Afton, which was played on June 14, 1986.
“I remember the last play of the game,” Welch-Goldstein said.
She also noted the T-V junior prom was that evening, and she got her hair done on the way home from the game.
Lisa Yager sent her thoughts about the game to Feusner in an e-mail. Yager recalled how there was a lot of support from the parents as well as from the school, including teachers, administration and students.
“I remember the incredible feeling of success,” Yager said in her e-mail to Feusner.
They all recalled that the game was fairly close and the team got their first hit in the bottom of the seventh. For the first six innings, Afton sophomore pitcher Holly Aprile, who compiled a then-national record 324 strikeouts during that season, held the Lady Bears hitless.
“We had a very good, solid team,” Helthaler-McCarthy said.
Feusner believed those young ladies were “all addicted to playing softball and they were very dedicated.”
Following that victory, Feusner received many letters of congratulations from athletic directors from various schools. Feusner said that she hopes for another state championship one day, but noted that it takes a lot of dedication and hard work from all of the players on the team.
In the hopes of someday bringing another state championship plaque home to Grahamsville and fostering a love of the sport of softball in young girls, Feusner continues to coordinate fundraising efforts in order to help pay for some of the costs of the annual T-V softball clinics.

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