Hilltoppers have expierience to repeat as state champs

The Fort Plain baseball team couldn’t have asked for a better scenario as it goes after a second con
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The Fort Plain baseball team couldn’t have asked for a better scenario as it goes after a second consecutive state Class C champ­ionship today.

Its top two pitchers are rested and ready. Its offense has been piling up runs. Most of the Hilltoppers have made the trip to Binghamton before, and know just what to expect.

“We’re not going to be happy just to be there,” Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said of his 26-3 Hilltoppers, who take a nine-game winning streak into today’s 1 p.m. semifinal against Thomas Edison at Conlon Field in MacArthur Park. “We want to show up and win.”

Fort Plain did that just over a year ago, beating Frewsburg and Keio Academy to cap an 8-0 postseason run, and secure the high school’s first state banner in any sport.

“Last year, everything went our way,” Phillips said. “I believe there are baseball gods out there, and they said, ‘This is your day.’ ”

Will they be looking down once again on the senior-rich Hilltoppers? They’ll start 11-0 Dustin Baker against Thomas Edison (Section IV, 21-4), with the senior right-hander already owning three postseason wins, two of them no-hitters.

“Going into the state tourn­ament, you never know what’s

going to happen,” said Phillips, who is two wins shy of 600 for his

career. “A ball could go through the shortstop’s legs. A ball could get by your catcher. An outfielder could miss a ball.”

Fort Plain has avoided critical mistakes for six straight playoff games, and has made its opponents pay for theirs. After tight Class C sectional victories over Salem

(2-0), Canajoharie (6-4) and Duanesburg (3-2), the Hilltoppers rolled past Corinth (8-1) in the Class CC-C playoff before thumping Ticonderoga (8-0) and Brushton-Moira (11-1) in the regionals.

“Any time you can win six games in a little over a week, you’ve done something special,” said Phillips. “To get up for a game and then have to get up again, it’s tough to do.

“I think, for the kids, it was important to get back there,” he added. “They’ve played with a target on them all year, and there’s been a lot of pressure on them. They’ve redeemed themselves, and made themselves one of the top four teams in the state. That’s quite an honor.”

Fort Plain will be attempting to become Section II’s second team to win consecutive state championships, with Greenwich turning the trick in 1992-93. Two victories will also give the Hilltoppers a school-record 28, after they went 27-2 last season.

“Not many teams have won back-to-back,” said Phillips. “Last year, we thought we were a year away, and we went all the way. This is the year we’re supposed to do it, and it’s difficult to fulfill those expect­ations.”

They’ll be striving to meet them with a veteran cast led by Baker and fellow seniors Adam Cutspec, Brad Bowers, Elijah Braemer, Ryan Hud­yncia and Jim Thomas. Baker set down 21 straight batters in a no-hitter against Ticonderoga, while Cutspec homered in that game, and also went deep against Brushton-Moira. Cutspec will get the pitching nod, should Fort Plain advance to the final.

“Thirteen or 14 of them have been there, and nine or 10 of them played. Being there before is a big thing,” said Phillips. “They’re not going to be as tight because they’ve been here and done this. I believe our experience will help us.”

Baker got both pitching dec­isions last year, going the distance in a 3-0 shutout of Frewsburg and hurling five innings of relief in a comeback 10-9 triumph over Jap­anese boarding school Keio Academy. Baker is 28-3 over the last three seasons.

“He can put the ball where he wants, he changes speeds well and at certain times, he can bring it very well,” Phillips said of Baker.

Fort Plain will be making its fourth final-four appearance. The Hilltoppers lost one-run semifinals in 1997 (Class D) and 2004 (Class C).

“For a small school like us to

reload and not rebuild, it’s a credit to the kids,” Phillips said.

Thomas Edison edged Candor for the Section IV title and beat Beaver River in the regionals,

11-4. Alek Brown struck out 11 in that game, and also went 3-for-4 with four RBI.

KeioAcademy (Section I, 16-11) and Honeoye (Section V, 24-5) play in this morning’s first semifinal at 10, and the title game is scheduled for 4 p.m.. Keio Academy scored five seventh-inning runs to beat Millbrook in a regional semifinal before topping Port Jefferson, 7-1. Honeoye advanced with a 5-4 win over Frewsburg.

CADETS seek perfection

LaSalle (27-0) can become Section II’s first undefeated state champion since Greenwich in 1992 (26-0) with a pair of Class AA victories at Union-Endicott’s Sylvester Field.

The Cadets meet Mamaroneck (Section I, 28-2) at 1 p.m., and Hilton (Section V, 25-4) plays Massapequa (Section VIII, 22-6-1) beforehand at 10 a.m. The title game is set for 4. Columbia is the lone Section II team to win a Class AA banner in 2004.

LaSalle is ranked No. 1 in the state, one spot ahead of Massapequa, which lost in the semifinals last year and, in 2006, beat Colonie for the championship. LaSalle lost in the 2005 semifinals.

LaSalle beat Columbia to get out of Section II, 3-2, on Will Rem­milard’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Remmilard went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBI, and Kyle Charron pitched a five-hitter with 11 strikeouts in LaSalle’s 7-0 regional win over Proctor.

Mamaroneck beat Vestal, 4-0, and Minisink Valley, 13-3, in reg­ional play.

Chatham (25-3) will see Class B semifinal action at 1 p.m. against Christian Brothers Academy (Section III, 24-4) at Broome Com­munity College. JFK Catholic (Section I, 25-3) plays Gowanda (Section VI, 22-5) in the first semifinal at 10, with the final set for 4.

Chatham beat Potsdam in the regionals, 9-1, and CBA blanked Chenango Valley, 5-0, behind Matt Croglio’s no-hit pitching.

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