TROY — Columbia’s offense had sputtered in the early innings, but it was late in the game when they came on strong as they beat Ballston Spa by a final score of 3-1 at Joe Bruno Stadium on Tuesday night to capture the Class AA championship.
Strong pitching from opposing starters Danny Watson and Mike Poirer kept the game scoreless until the fourth inning, when Ballston Spa became the first side to score, doing so as Jake Manderson came from second to home on a Columbia error.
The Blue Devils were not to be outdone. In the fifth inning, they tied the game on an RBI single from Nic Stagnitta. The next inning, Carmen Erno singled with one out and was sent to third on a huge double from shortstop Matt Wimmer to put runners on second and third with just still the lone out. Then, first baseman Willie Terrell ripped a single to centerfield, scoring Erno to give them a 2-1 lead. Wimmer was tagged out at home for the second out of the inning.
The hits from Wimmer and Terrell were redemption, as both players had made a mistake earlier in the game. Wimmer made the error on the ball that gave Ballston Spa their run, and Terrell was thrown out at first base from right field on a line drive in his previous at-bat.
“I had to re-focus. I couldn’t let my teammates down. Runners on second and third, one out, I knew I had to bring at least one in, and thank God I did,” Terrell said.
Head coach Chris Dedrick said of Wimmer, “He picked himself up. He didn’t allow that error to distract him in his at-bat. That’s growth. It shows you senior leadership, experience, that kind of thing.”
The Blue Devils tacked on a third and final run in the sixth inning courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Matt LeHera.
While the offense of Columbia heated up, Watson was dominating the Scotties’ lineup. He ended up throwing a complete game, allowing the lone unearned run on just three hits and struck out seven.
“As I went I kept feeling better and better. I tend to throw harder as I go, and that’s what I did today. I kept grinding through kept getting better,” Watson said.
The sectional championship comes as the program’s seventh ever and first since 2012. Columbia has a large senior class this year, and this was a goal of theirs coming into the season.
“These seniors, they’ve played in big games before. Not only played them here at Columbia but played in their summer leagues, so the senior bunch is used to it. They have such a tight camaraderie, so everybody picks each other up so it wasn’t too big for them today,” Dedrick said.
Ballston Spa is in a situation that they expect to be back in next year with such a young team, and they will now know what a run to the sectional final is like.
“This is a great learning tool right here. We’re going to learn from this. We definitely aren’t taking this as we lost. We’re taking it as we’re learning, so we know exactly what it’s going to take for next year when the majority of my guys are going to be seniors,” said coach Curtis Nobles.
Columbia will advance to state tournament play. In the regional round, they will face Section III champion Baker High School. That game will be played on Saturday, June 2 at Joe Bruno Stadium, and is set to begin at 7 p.m.