TROY — In the late innings of a championship baseball game, anything can happen. That held true on Saturday afternoon in the Class D championship game. It took extra innings but ended with Fort Plain taking the title as they beat Whitehall by a final score of 10-6 in eight innings.
Fort Plain had a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, but Whitehall was not about to have their season end there. They got two runners on to start the inning, and then with one out, David Camara came through with a sacrifice fly that tied the game up at six apiece and sent the game into extra innings.
Fort Plain, not ready to lose either, came through in extra innings in a big way. Zack Reid and Dawson Nare on a bunt led off the inning with back-to-back hits and both were driven in via a fielders’ choice that became an adventure, with Fureno getting all the way to third base and giving the Hilltoppers an 8-6 lead. Then, they used some small ball to extend their lead as Brady Fureno bunted a ball just past the pitcher to make it 9-6.
“People don’t realize that the bunt is still an important weapon in baseball, and enough teams don’t do it,” Fort Plain head coach Craig Phillips said.
The Hilltoppers added a tenth run on a passed ball and shut down Whitehall in the eighth to win.
This was a grind it out type of victory for Fort Plain as they trailed 5-2 in the sixth inning but scored four runs in the top of the sixth to give them a 6-5 lead that the Railroaders came back from in their half of the seventh inning.
Before the rally, though, the Fort Plain offense had come to a screeching halt after a two-run first inning. After that, they did not get another hit until the big sixth inning. During a stretch during that time, 10 of 11 Hilltopper batters were retired by Whitehall starter Daniel St. Clair.
“As Yogi used to say, ‘It’s never over ‘til it’s over.’ We could have quit. That’s baseball,” Phillips said.
St. Clair overall had a great start, but it ended up being all for naught. He went five innings and gave up two runs on two hits and struck out eight Fort Plain batters before giving way to Evan St. Claire who was the pitcher when Fort Plain rallied in the sixth.
In the bottom of the eighth down four runs, Whitehall mustered a couple of hits but did not score, providing Fort Plain with their second sectional title in three years and giving Phillips his 11th sectional title in his illustrious career.
“This is unbelievable. A lot of teams would have said, ‘we’re going to get beat, they’re the better team.’ It’s incredible. I’ve won 11 of (these), and I don’t know, this one might go up there as one of the better ones,” Phillips said.
Fort Plain will now advance to the state tournament following the victory. They move on to play Section IX champion Tuxedo in the regional round. That game will be played on Saturday, June 2 at East Field in Glens Falls. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.