Hilltoppers boost winning streak to 22 games

Fort Plain’s state champion baseball team notched another win Friday, yet after its 10-3 victory at
Pitcher Billy McDonough of Spa Catholic, goes over the top of Tyler Barhydt of Fort Plain, as he slides safely into home Friday.
Pitcher Billy McDonough of Spa Catholic, goes over the top of Tyler Barhydt of Fort Plain, as he slides safely into home Friday.

Fort Plain’s state champion baseball team notched another win Friday, yet

after its 10-3 victory at Sar­atoga Catholic, all of the Hilltoppers agreed that this one was extra special.

Adam Cutspec homered to start the Western Athletic Conference showdown, Ryan Hudyncia cracked a three-run double in the seventh and Dustin Baker scattered five hits in between as Fort Plain swept the season series with the Saints and remained unbeaten.

“This is a great win for us. I want to enjoy this,” veteran coach Craig Phillips said after his Hilltoppers extended their nearly year-long winning streak to 22 games. “You don’t beat Spa Catholic very often twice in the same season.”

Fort Plain (9-0 league and overall) got the jump on the Saints (7-3, 12-3) with five runs in its first two at-bats, and put the contest out of reach with a five-run seventh highlighted by Hudyncia’s three-run blow. Tyler Barhydt and fellow sophomore Mark Hanifin stroked RBI singles before that against Saints reliever Jack Keller.

“Hats off to Ryan Hudyncia,” Phillips said of his senior catcher, who batted eighth. “I moved him down in order to see more fastballs, and that’s a big confidence boost for him.”

Hudyncia also singled twice, James Thomas had a double and two singles, and Hanifin and Barhydt combined for four singles, three RBI and four runs scored to back Baker, an all-state Class C performer who went to 4-0 this year and 14-2 going back to last year’s state championship season.

Baker also beat Saratoga Catholic on April 9, 2-1, and the Saints had won 10 in a row before falling to the Hilltoppers again on a dark, damp and cold afternoon.

“We’ve got tons of respect for each other, but it’s a game both teams want to win pretty bad,” said Cutspec, a senior shortstop.

“This is a big rivalry. We always look forward to playing this game,” said Baker, a senior righty, who struck out nine, walked five and hit a batter who he later picked off. “It’s a big win under our belt.”

The Hilltoppers have done nothing but win since bowing to Canajoharie, 6-5, at their Rich Bower Tournament on May 12 of 2007. Their streak also includes a 4-2 win over Saratoga Catholic last year, which avenged an earlier 16-2 loss.

“On the bus ride over, I said to my team, ‘This is going to end sometime. Let’s not have it end against a contender,’­” Phillips said of the Hilltoppers’ winning streak.

Saratoga Catholic didn’t go down easy, cutting its deficit to 5-3 on

Logan Valenty’s two-run single in the home second and Shane Matthews’ RBI single in the fifth.

“After they put that five spot up there, I told my guys, ‘Let’s try to win every inning and see how we come out,’ ” said Saints coach Phonsey Lambert. “We got in pos­ition to tie the game or go ahead, but we couldn’t muster the big hit.”

Baker got plenty of help from his defense, with Cutspec starting an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth, and Barhydt, from his second base spot, making a diving, two-out catch in short center after Matthews’ single.

Baker also started a double play in the second with runners on the corners, flipping the ball to first

after snaring a line drive back to the box.

“I like the way we battled,” Lambert said. “And I liked the way my freshman pitcher [Bill McDonough] hung in there and kept us in the game.”

McDonough did, but only after Fort Plain’s early scoring spree, which Cutspec began by drilling a 3-1 fastball five feet fair over the left field fence. Eight more batters came to the plate that inning, and seven stepped up in the next.

“I was sitting on a fastball, and I hit it,” said Cutspec, who, like Baker, made the all-state Class C first team in 2007. “It felt good.”

“To start the game like that, that was big for us,” Baker said of Cutspec’s first homer of the season; he belted seven of them as a junior. “That got people pumped up.”

Brad Bowers made it 2-0 in the first on an RBI goundout, and Han­ifin, who had singled, scored on an error. Hanifin plated a second-inning run with a sacrifice fly, and Barhydt, who had singled, scored on a wild pitch.

Saratoga Catholic got two diving catches from right fielder Tucker Carlson in the first the third innings, the latter with two down and runners at first and second.

Fort Plain 320 000 5 — 10 12 2

Saratoga Catholic 020 010 0 —  3  5 2

Baker and Hudyncia; McDonough, Keller (6) and Keller, McLagan (6).

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