Niskayuna rode a shutout performance on the mound and key hits to victory as the beat Shenendehowa on Saturday afternoon at Joe Bruno Stadium by a final score of 4-0 to clinch their first Section 2, Class AA title in program history.
The Silver Warriors grabbed their first two runs of the day in the third inning, taking the first lead on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Nick Insognia and then extended the lead two batters later on an RBI single from Angelo Spataro. Second baseman Spataro had big day at the plate, going 3-3 with two RBIs and drawing a walk in another plate appearance.
However, the story of the game was on the mound where Alec Ritzenthaler dominated. He tossed a complete game shutout on just six Plainsmen hits and kept his control in check as he gave up just three walks, two of them coming in the first inning.
“(Ritzenthaler) got out of that jam in the first inning and really settled down, started locating down in the strike zone, locating his curveball and his change-up on the outer part of the plate, and when he does that, (since) he’s so long, it’s difficult for teams to put the barrel on the ball,” Niskayuna head coach Chris Bianchi said.
The game really went in the direction of the Silver Warriors in the sixth inning, when Shenendehowa had loaded the bases with two outs and with Niskayuna still up by just two. With Devin Disonell at the plate, Ritzenthaler induced a ground ball to third base to get the out and end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Niskayuna put a pair of insurance runs on the board to make it look like Niskayuna would win the section.
On his team putting insurance runs up, Bianchi said, “With a team like Shen, we know that they’re going to put guys on base, and we know that they’re going to bring the tying run to the on-deck circle somehow, some way. To get a couple baserunners there and to be able to get a couple clutch two-out hits was so important for us.”
Ritzenthaler came back out for the seventh inning and made quick work of the Plainsmen as they went down 1-2-3 to clinch the sectional title.
“I was locked in in the seventh. We were up four, I was locked in, and I just wanted to make pitches, get outs,” Ritzenthaler said.
Niskayuna’s win could be seen as even more impressive as they played most of the game without Suburban Council MVP and number three hitter Tyler Senecal, as he was ejected from the game in the first inning following a collision with Shen catcher Kyle Douglas.
The victory for the Silver Warriors marked their first sectional title win in the history of the program, shutting down Shenendehowa who going into the game had won the section four out of the last five seasons and were the defending-state champions.
“The fact that they won the state championship and they’ve been to the final several straight years is important for us as a stepping stone. But we never had any doubt in our mind that we were good enough to beat them today,” Bianchi said.
With the win, Shenendehowa’s run as the eight-seed in the Class AA playoffs ends. Niskayuna however, advances to the state tournament. Their next game will be on Saturday, June 3 in the regional round, with the game being played at Onondaga Community College. The start time and opponent is not known at this time.