Duanesburg freshman Brand is performing like a veteran

Ben Brand never expected to be on the mound at Phillips Field last week when Duanesburg played defen
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Ben Brand never expected to be on the mound at Phillips Field last week when Duanesburg played defending state Class C baseball champion Fort Plain.

“I was shocked when coach told me I’d be the starter,” said the tall, quiet freshman left-hander. “When I got out there, I was nervous.”

Yet, very effective.

The 15-year-old scattered six hits over six innings and gave up one run in Wednesday’s Western Athletic Conference game as the Eagles beat the Hilltoppers, 3-1, and ended their 23-game winning streak that stretched back to May 2007.

“Through the year, he’s stepped it up. He’s been fantastic the whole year,” Duanesburg coach Chris Wyanski said of Brand, who earlier beat Sharon Springs and Middleburgh while losing to Fonda-Fultonville. “Though he’s a freshman, he’s played bigger than a freshman.”

Brand struck out two, walked none and pitched shutout ball over his final five innings before senior Will McMullen earned the save. McMullen struck out the side in the seventh, sandwiching a walk around his first and second whiffs.

“McMullen is our best pitcher, but I have a lot of confidence in Brand, and I wanted to show him that by starting him,” Wyanski said. “He kept them off stride, and we played excellent defense behind him. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Fort Plain entered the game at 10-0, and had prevailed in its final 13 games last spring, culminating with its state title. Canajoharie was the last team to beat the Hilltoppers, 6-5.

“It was an amazing feeling to go to their place, and perform the way we did,” said Brand. “My teammates were behind me all the way. They made some amazing plays.”

Fort Plain had scored 10 runs or more in eight of its 10 games before playing Duanesburg, and had piled up 31 against Sharon Springs and 19 against Galway.

“I mixed up my pitches the best I could,” Brand said.

Wes Coppolo had the key hit for Duanesburg, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the fifth. James Thomas hit an RBI single in the first for Fort Plain.

Duanesburg won again Friday, at Schenectady Christian, 6-4, to run its WAC record to 11-3 and overall mark to 13-4.

mohonasen slams nisky

Ben Gatchell hit a grand slam, and Robert Tedesco and Alex Massaroni also homered in

Mohonasen’s 11-3 Suburban Council win over Niskayuna Wednesday at Memorial Park in Rotterdam. With the victory, Mohonasen clinched its first sectional berth since 2005.

“The most home runs we hit in a game before today was one,” said Gatchell, a senior, who also went the distance on the mound. “The bats broke out today.”

Tedesco launched a three-run homer in the first inning, and Gatchell ripped his grand slam in the second. Niskayuna had intentionally walked Tedesco with two outs to load the bases, hoping for a force at any base, and Gatchell foiled the plan with his shot over the right-field fence against Shawn Callahan.

“When they intentionally walked Tedesco, I felt insulted. He grooved it down the middle, and when I hit it, I knew it was gone,” said Gatchell, who struck out in his first at-bat. “I was 8 years old the last time I hit one [a grand slam].”

Massaroni hit a two-run homer in the fourth, and Niskayuna’s Dan Peters broke up Gatchell’s shutout bid in the seventh with a two-run shot.

falcons are in

Albany qualified for the Section II Class AA baseball tournament for the first time since 1999 with Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Bishop

Maginn at Bleecker Stadium.

Michael Hughes struck out 14, and Justin Harris had a double, single and three RBI as the Falcons won their eighth Big 10 game, and guaranteed themselves at least a .500 league record. Coach Joey DiPiazza’s Falcons won six league games in 2007 and three in 2006.

Albany’s 1999 team qualified for the sectionals with a 9-7 league record, and lost to Columbia in a Class A preliminary game, 6-1.

crain to binghamton

Zach Crain, the most successful wresler in Columbia High School history, will compete at Binghamton University for coach Pat Pop­olizio.

Crain put together a 216-35

record with the Blue Devils, including a 42-2 mark this past winter at 135 pounds, when he won the Section II Class A and Division I championships before a runner-up state tournament finish. His 216 wins over six seasons rank seventh in Section II history, with the athletic and academic star totaling 41 as a junior, 38 as a sophomore and 36 as both a freshman and eighth-grader. Fifteen of his losses came as a seventh-grader.

Crain won the Section II Champion of Champions Award as its most outstanding wrestler as a senior, after earning a spot on the Suburban Council all-star first team. He capped his banner season with a 5-2 showing at the NHSCA Senior National Championships.

A three-time Section II Class A champion, a three-time state meet participant and two-time New York State National Team member, Crain chose Binghamton over Appalachian State and North Carolina.

defensive stars commit

Daily Gazette first-team All-Area defensive stars Alex Palkovic and Spencer Miller of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will continue their football careers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Rochester, respectively.

Palkovic and Miller played key roles as Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake captured the Section II Class A championship in 2006 and reached the title game in 2007. The 2006 team won a school-record 10 games, and the 2007 team posted eight victories.

Palkovic, an end, was named the Section II Class A Division I Outstanding Defensive Player and landed a spot on the all-state second team last fall after recording 56 tackles, including 20 for losses. He also had two fumble recoveries and blocked two kicks.

Miller, a linebacker, led BH-BL with 86 tackles, 11 for losses, while breaking up three passes and

recovering a fumble.

“They were impact players for us,” said BH-BL coach Matt Shell. “They are two big reasons why we did as well as we did.”

CORRECTION

Duanesburg shortstop Will

McMullen was misidentified in a high school baseball photo that ran in Saturday’s Daily Gazette.

McMullen is shown tagging a sliding Ian Compton of Schenectady Christian on a play at second base.

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