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Columbia bats blow past Colonie in sectional semifinals

Aidan Joly

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TROY — Columbia used an early barrage of runs, and the offense was strong for the whole way, keeping their playoff run going. The Blue Devils beat Colonie on Thursday afternoon at Joe Bruno Stadium in the Class AA semifinals, winning in five innings in a 14-4 mercy rule win.

Heading into the second inning trailing 1-0, Columbia knocked off six runs to give them a big advantage. Cleanup hitter Danny Watson led off the inning with a double, and later on, Matt Wimmer drove him in with a single to tie the game. Two batters later, Stephen Blydenburgh ripped a two-run double that gave the Blue Devils the lead. Later in the same inning, Matt LaHera ripped a two-run single to chase Colonie starter Kyle Lambert, the fifth run in an inning that gave them a 6-1 lead.

“Their approach today was relentless. They got the pitch counts up, they got to a lot of hitters’ counts and some good timely hitting,” Columbia head coach Chris Dedrick said.

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The next inning, second baseman Justin Pangburn came through with a big hit of his own, a two-run home run to left field to extend the Blue Devil lead to 8-1, which allowed them to cruise the rest of the way while their offense kept up their pace, scoring three more runs in the fourth inning and another three in the fifth.

“Sometimes (a team) will come out and score six and they’ll rest. This team, when they score and keep scoring, they just putting their foot down. That’s what we preach, and today they were able to do so,” Dedrick said.

Columbia’s Carmen Erno provided stability the entire way through for his team, pitching three innings on the mound, allowing three runs. On the other side of the ball, he had a pair of RBI singles, driving in two runners in total. In total, he went 2-3 with a walk.

“Going into the game I was feeling very nervous, being a sophomore starting a sectional semifinal game. Them coming out and helping me out settled my nerves a lot,” Erno said of his team’s offense.

Colonie scored two runs in the third inning, scored another in the fifth and left runners on second and third to try to cut their deficit but it was not enough for them to avoid the mercy rule, season-ending loss.

With the victory, Columbia advances to the sectional final for the first time since 2012 when they beat Shenendehowa to win the Section 2 championship.

“I just think it’s great senior leadership. We got 12 seniors and each and every one of them (are) leaders. They lead by example, they do everything we ask, they buy into the process, and you can’t ask for a better bunch of kids,” Dedrick said.

In this year’s edition, they will face either Ballston Spa or Shenendehowa. That game will be played on Tuesday at Joe Bruno Stadium and will begin at 7 p.m.

Aidan Joly joined Upstate Courier Sports in February 2016 and became managing editor of the sports department in August 2017. He covers Section II athletics, the Siena men's basketball team and the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Aidan attends Saratoga Springs High School and will be attending Canisius College in the fall of 2018. Aidan can be contacted through social media (Twitter is @ByAidanJoly) or by email, joly@upstatecourier.com