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Valley Sports Report
For Villanova coach Bridget Orchard, it’s always special being back in Section IV.

The former Binghamton High School softball star has had two straight Big East “Players of the Year” that came out of the section, and she herself is a former three-time all-state player while she was at Binghamton High School.

Orchard returns to the area on Wednesday as she will be running a clinic at East Waverly Park, and then later in the day she will run a coaching clinic at Tomasso’s Restaurant.

“It’s awesome,” Orchard said of coming back to the area. “Anytime we get an opportunity to come back up to the Binghamton area. Tess (Cites) is from the area, and we recruit a lot from that area. We recruit a lot from Windsor, Horseheads, Binghamton so it’s nice to get back up there.”

Cites, a Horseheads graduate, was this past season’s Big East “Player of the Year,” and she will help coach the clinic. She follows in the footsteps of Paige Rauch, a Binghamton High School graduate, who started her high school career at Windsor, and was a multiple-time Big East “Player of the Year” for the Wildcats.

Cites, a two-time all-state pick at Horseheads, hit .378 this past season at Villanova, with seven home runs, 15 doubles and 45 RBI. Along with Big East “Player of the Year” honors, she earned second-team All-Mideast Region honors.

“Obviously getting that accolade (conference player of the year) is awesome,” Orchard said. “We know she’s a great player, she knows she is a great player. When you get honors and awards from this area, when you are a successful D1 player coming to camps and clinics is something she was doing these (as a kid) just a few years ago.

“For kids, it’s like hey she can do it, and I can do the same thing. She’s a great person, a hard worker. I think it’s awesome for them (the kids) to see her, meet her in person and have her tell her story.

“It’s really cool to see our players give back,” added Orchard. “They have just been in that situation so they get it, they understand it, it’s nice to see them give back and see them instruct. It’s helpful for them because they have to teach it and it’s great to see them be able to do that. It’s pretty cool to see that, I think the kids respond well to that.”

Orchard knows that it’s special for kids to be able to learn from someone who just earned conference player of the year honors and it’s fun for players like Cites to do these camps.

“I know they enjoy doing it, especially Tess, she loves giving back,” Orchard said. “She loves doing it down here. People may know, or may have watched her play softball, so it’s cool to have her come back and them to see her. She has a big senior season coming up and I know she’s pumped for that as well.”

Orchard knows all about success in the sport of softball. After being a three-time all-state player at Binghamton, as Bridget Baxter, she later went on to have success as a player at Villanova. She now has more than 900 coaching wins, and led Villanova to its first Big East Championship and NCAA Tournament Berth in 2021. She coached for 17 seasons at Fordham before coming to Villanova after the 2018 season.

The clinic, “Train with the Champions Softball,” presented by Waverly Sports Complex, will be Wednesday at East Waverly Park. A morning session for ages 8-12 will be from 9-11 a.m. and an afternoon session for ages 13-18 runs from noon to 2 p.m.

Villanova assistnat coach Chelsea Plimpton and their pitching coach Gabby Luety will both also help with the clinic, along with Waverly grads Samantha (Mennig) Jilson, a former Corning CC and Clarkson University standout, and Zoe Mennig, a former Oswego State star.

“Both of my assistant coaches are used to the area,” Orchard said. “Gabby Luety is from Homer, and Chelsea Plimpton is from Buffalo, but she played travel ball for the TC Tremors in the area.”

For Orchard, it’s always helpful to get to meet the future of softball from Section IV at clinics like this.

“You get to meet them, talk to them, see what they are doing, learning, have them meet me and build a relationship,” Orchard said. “Some of it is for selfish purposes, anytime you get the school out there, the players out there, the name out there it’s good. Someone may not have thought of us, then it kind of pops in. Even to get some fan support. We come up and play at Binghamton University every fall. Hopefully, we get some of these fans to come to our games.”

The coaching seminar and dinner will be at Tomasso’s Restaurant and Golf Course. The clinic runs from 5:30-6:30 p.m. followed by the dinner. The cost is $50 for the coaching clinic and people can e-mail for more information.

For Orchard, it’s always nice to meet coaches from the area.

“Absolutely, you get to kind of meet them, talk to them, see what they are doing, and have them meet me and build a relationship,” Orchard said.

Orchard knows that coaching clinics can help everyone. Not only is there teaching going on, but there is relationship building both for everyone.

“Everything is about relationships and contacts,” Orchard said. “Who you know, what you know. It’s good to get to see new people. We have BU (Binghamton University) coaches that are coming up, and one of their assistant coaches is going to help work it (the coaches clinic).”

While she’s doing coaching clinics, Orchard feels like she learns things as well.

“It’s great, we are always learning, we have that mindset that we can always pick things up,” Orchard said. “Talking to them, picking their brains and anything we can pick up and bring back. It kind of goes both ways.”

It’s fun for everyone involved to just be around the sport they love.

“It’s awesome,” Orchard said. “Anytime you get a chance to be around softball, love the game, just different aspects. Getting ready for the fall. It’s exciting, summer has flown by. Freshmen move in Aug. 18, so that’s almost here.

“It goes by really fast. As soon as our season end, spring summer break, we are out recruiting, working camps, working clinics, and before you know it fall is here,” she added. “Fall sports are already moving back in.”


IN PHOTO: Bridget Orchard (left) and Tess Sites.

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