On Saturday night at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy, the #1 seed Shenendehowa Plainsmen and #5 seed Guilderland Dutchmen squared off in a battle for the spot in the Section 2 Class AA Baseball title game.
And the bats, for each team, got off to a quick start.
Guilderland took advantage of having first ups by scoring 2 runs in the top of the first, thanks to a RBI double from Andrew Blair and an RBI single from Nick Bruno, in back-to-back fashion.
But that didn’t scare the Plainsmen.
The Plainsmen put up a run each in the first and second innings, as Nik Malachowski scored Nick Jacques on a groundout in the first and an RBI double from Kevin Huerter scored Frank Pizzo to tie the game.
“It seems like all year we’ve been playing behind,” said Huerter, who went 2-for-3 with the RBI. “So each game we came from behind in the regular season we knew it would be big for games like this when the stage is a little bit brighter so we battled and it came through.”
And Shen would be required to do it again.
After Dutchmen shortstop Cam Collett singled with one out in the top of the 5th, the train started to roll a bit. Cam Myers followed with a single of his own, and Blair followed with a hit by pitch, giving the Dutchmen the bases loaded with only one out, and Bruno looking to take advantage.
And he did.
The pitcher singled between the shortstop and third baseman allowing Collett to score, reclaiming the lead 3-2, but the Dutchmen third base coach was too aggressive, as Myers was gunned out at homer by Joe Palko at the plate for the second out. A ground out by Nick Grabek ended the Dutchmen threat, but they held the lead, only needing 9 outs to get.
And then the craziest half inning known to man ensued.
After Shen got runners on the corners with no outs to begin the inning, Bruno tried a pickoff move at first. Jacques, the runner, broke for second, and Cody Chase’s throw went past the second base bag, into left field, allowing Huerter to score from 3rd, and tie the game. Bruno then proceeded to let Palko reach base, as his strikeout pitch got past the catcher Blair. Malachowski then hit a chopper right down the third base line, where Grabek received it and tagged Jacques too far off the base for the first out of the inning, and his throw to first to try and get Malachowski is late, but smart base running from Palko put him on third after the throw.
So Shen now has first and third, one man out, and the cleanup hitter Joe Fraser coming up.
He grounds to Cam Myers at second, but the ball took a hop right before hitting his glove, and couldn’t make the play, allowing Palko to score.
And before you could even blink, Shen had the lead.
The Plainsmen then took it’s turn at the aggressive baserunning, as Rich Drum then singled through the left side, but a great throw from the left fielder Patrick Henning nailed the pinch-runner Kurt Forsell at the plate. Bruno then followed by getting Anderson to ground out and end the inning, but not before giving up the lead.
After 5 strong innings from Ben Anderson, where he stranded 6 Dutchmen base runners and mixed his pitches well, using his combination to strike out 5 hitters, including 4 looking, Shen turned to Malachowski to get the final six outs.
And without much problem, he did, requiring only 7 batters to push Shen on.
“These kids kept grinding,” Coach Greg Christodulu said after the game. “Guilderland’s a very good team. They put up a great fight. I’m proud of the way our guys played. They kept grinding and grinding and just refused [to lose] and were just relentless all night.”
Bruno took the loss for Guilderland, surrendering only 8 hits throughout his complete game and 1 earned run, while striking out 6 and throwing 112 pitches.
The win pushes the Plainsmen on to the title game against the #2 seed CBA on Thursday night at Joe Bruno Stadium at 7 PM. Christodulu confirmed ace starter and top MLB Draft Prospect Ian Anderson will start for his team, while CBA coach Casey O’Connor would not confirm who his team would give the ball to.
“Expect another great team,” Huerter said of his expectations. “Expect another fight. They beat us before and we know they can beat us again, so we’re gonna take nothing for granted and have a great week of practice.”