Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game of inches; Saratoga tops Troy on the diamond

Saratoga Springs used three inning-ending double plays to shut down the Troy High offense en route to a 7-1 victory in the opening round of the Section II Class AA playoffs Tuesday afternoon at Troy High.
Saratoga senior pitcher Matt Coleman throws a pitch during Tuesday's game at Troy High. (All photos by J.S. Carras - The Record).

Saratoga Springs senior pitcher Matt Coleman worked into trouble in each of the first four innings against Troy High in Tuesday's Section II Class AA opening round playoff game, but he escaped having allowed just one run on one hit.

In the fifth, Coleman issued a single, a sacrifice bunt, a walk and a hit batsman to load the bases for Troy's senior designated hitter, Steve Ziter, with one out.

Ziter ripped a hard line drive down the third base line, but Saratoga's Chris Davis snared the ball and stepped on third for an inning-ending double play.

Coleman used three such double plays in a 7-1 victory for the Blue Streaks at Troy High School.

For the full story, check out Wednesday's edition of The Record and The Saratogian.

Saratoga's Nate Foster slides into second base in front of Troy High second baseman Zeb Gaston.

Suburban Council No. 5 seed Saratoga (12-8) will face Suburban No. 1 Shenendehowa (17-3) Thursday in a Section II Class AA quarterfinal game in Clifton Park.

"That will be a game to watch," Coleman laughed of the Blue Streaks' rivalry with the Plainsmen.

Troy High senior pitcher Iziah McCowan delivers during Tuesday's game against Saratoga Springs.

Senior righty Iziah McCowan had developed into Troy's ace this season, carrying a 5-1 record into Tuesday's game. He set down the Saratoga hitters the first time through the order without harm, but the Streaks gradually came around on his slow, sweeping breaking ball.

The Blue Streaks scored two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and two more in both the sixth and seventh innings. Coleman continued to set down the Flying Horses and Saratoga pulled away for the victory.

Saratoga Springs first baseman Brandon Krawczuk secures a catch during Tuesday's Class AA playoff game against Troy.

"He is a bull," Troy head coach Curtis Nobles said of Coleman. "The kid came out here and he gave us his best. Even when he got in trouble, he settled in and he made pitcher’s pitches in timely situations.

"When he did that, his defense stepped up to the plate and they made some routine plays. And their offense just turned it up a notch later in the game."

Saratoga Springs shortstop Alex Lushkevich fields a ground ball in Tuesday's game against Troy.

"I’ve been on this team for a few years and I’ve been in a lot of jams and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to," Coleman said. "I’m getting used to it. I just knew I had to make pitches and keep the ball down, get a ground ball and my team would help me."

Troy's Chad Sandercox slides into second base in front of Saratoga's second baseman Andrew Brink.

Troy (12-9), the Big 10 Conference's No. 4 seed, has made progress each of the four years Nobles has been on the bench.

He spent time speaking with his seniors and underclassmen separately, leaving each group a message.

For his underclassmen, he wanted them to know how hard his senior class had worked, both on and off the field.

"They set the bar very high," Nobles said. "From the people on the outside looking in, they don’t understand that our kids did a lot of community service. They were leaders in the schools. Out of the eight seniors, we have six that were Honor Society kids. Six of them are going to college and two are going into the military.

"I was telling them, for me as a coach, that is a success. That’s what we’re trying to breed here at Troy High. Not just athletes, but student-athletes."

Saratoga Springs left fielder Nate Foster slides into second base in front of Troy High second baseman Zeb Gaston during Tuesday's Class AA playoff game.

For his seniors, Nobles wanted to remind them that baseball is just a game. It's also a pretty potent metaphor for life, too, if you stop and think about it.

"Baseball is a game of inches," said Nobles. "That’s pretty much what we talked about at the end of the game with our seniors. I told them baseball is like the game of life.

"When a door shuts hard on you, there is always another one that is going to open up," he continued. "We took it with a grain of salt. We knew that if that ball was four inches to the left or four inches to the right or up, it could have been a different ballgame. The game is weird, but I love it."

Click on the box score for a full-size image.

Alex Ventre was kind enough to cover the Class B Schuylerville vs. Watervliet game for us Tuesday. Here is the story:

Alex Ventre
For The Saratogian

SCHUYLERVILLE — Sectional baseball games are almost always exciting.

Tuesday’s first-round contest between Schuylerville and Watervliet was nothing short of that.

In a constant back-and-forth battle, Schuylerville rallied with two runs in the seventh inning for a come-from-behind, 6-5 victory over Watervliet in the opening round of the Class B sectional contest.

Neither team recorded a hit in the first inning, as Dan Nittinger struck out the side to set the tone for Watervliet.

In the top of the second inning, the Cannoneers offense came alive. They drew two walks off of Schuylerville’s starter, Mike Vargues, and added a double by Pat Reinfurt to load the bases. Sean Daley put Watervliet (7-14) on the board with a RBI groundout to third base.

Watervliet increased its lead in the top of the third when Ryan Manning led the inning off with a single. Manning then stole second base and scored the second run of the contest off a throwing error when he attempted to steal third. The error was the first of three Schuylerville errors on the day.

"Our strength is usually our pitching and defense and today it was sloppy," Schuylerville coach Bruce Brown said. "Watervliet was an aggressive team, they were running a lot and we were throwing the ball all over the place. They put the pressure on us and we didn’t hold up."

Schuylerville (11-3 Wasaren, 15-6 overall) cut its deficit in half in the bottom of the third when senior Dustin Lasky belted a RBI double to centerfield to drive Chris Greive home.

Watervliet’s advantage grew to 4-1 in the top of the fifth when Kevin Pontore capitalized off another Black Horse’s error.

Schuylerville was resilient and tallied two runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by an Austin Bateman RBI single to center field.

In the sixth inning, the Cannoneers put another run on the board to take the 5-3 edge. With Logan Miller on second base, Josh Veshia belted a single to center. There was a play at the plate, but Miller narrowly eluded the tag by sliding under catcher Zach Reddix.

The Black Horses bounced back once again in the bottom of the inning. Chris Braim began the frame with a double to left field. Reddix followed by beating out the throw for an infield single.

Braim managed to pull Schuylerville within one run off a throwing error when Reddix tried to steal second base.

Vargues managed to silence Watervliet’s offense in the top of the seventh and Schuylerville trailed 5-4 heading into the final frame.

Lasky put the tying run on base with a walk to begin the inning. He was then bunted over to second base by Bateman. Steve Backus drove Lasky in with a RBI single to centerfield to knot the game, 5-5.

A Vargues walk put runners on first and second when Justin Edmonds came to bat. Edmonds grounded out, but a catching error at second base loaded the bases. Reddix was next to bat and hit a blooper over the second baseman’s head to clinch the victory for Schuylerville.

Heading into the bottom of the seventh, Reddix wasn’t prepared for the season to be over yet.

"I was like, I can’t believe it came to this. We had such a great season and we can’t throw it away here, not now, not yet," Reddix said. "We got some guys on base and I thought, here’s our chance and it came to me. I said the first pitch that came down the middle, I’m hacking. I got a little lucky. It wasn’t a solid hit, it just kind of blooped in there, but it works."

Vargues earned the complete game victory for the Black Horses, while Reddix finished 2-for-3 with a RBI, a run and a stolen base.

Watervliet coach Peter Strand credited Schuylerville in its victory.

"They’re gritty kids," Strand said. "It seemed like they were confident even when they were down in the seventh. They felt like, you know what, this is still our game and that’s what league champions do. They’re not going to give in."

Brown is thrilled his team escaped with the win, but knows they need a better performance to continue to advance.

"We’ll have to be consistent and throw a lot of strikes," Brown said. "We’re also going to have to be a little more consistent and patient with our at bats and we have to be better defensively."

Steve Backus will receive the start in the quarterfinals for fourth-seeded Black Horses when they face off against No. 5 Mechanicville (15-6) Thursday at 4 p.m.

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