Hilltoppers ace trumps Saints

Fort Plain completed a season sweep of rival Saratoga Catholic Tuesday night with help from two aces

Fort Plain completed a season sweep of rival Saratoga Catholic Tuesday night with help from two aces.

Dan Wiecek baffled the Saints with a two-hitter, and Tyler Barhydt and Bo Baker supplied the big blows in a three-run fifth inning as the Hilltoppers posted a 4-1 win in a matchup of Western Athletic Conference Northern Division contenders.

Barhydt stroked a tie-breaking, run-scoring double off hard-throwing Christian Garcia, and Baker connected for a two-run single later in the fifth against the right-hander who Monday signed to pitch for the University at Albany.

“Garcia throws real hard. We had a good batting practice before the game, getting ready for his fast pitching. We had our former No. 1, Dustin Baker, pitch batting practice for us,” Barhydt said of the ace of Fort Plain’s 2007 state Class C championship and 2008 state final-four team. “I think it helped us. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him throw so hard. We were geared up for the heat.”

Wiecek went in another direction, mixing fastballs with numerous curves to beat Saratoga Cath­olic for the second time while upping his personal log to 5-2. Wiecek gave up an unearned run in the first before blanking a league’s highest scoring team the rest of the way.

“We have scored 229 runs, and one run against Wiecek in two games,” said Saratoga Catholic coach Phonsey Lambert. “We didn’t play bad defense, and Garcia and [Billy] McDonough pitched pretty good, but we could not square the ball up against him.

“We couldn’t get anything going on him.”

Wiecek shut out Saratoga Catholic (15-3 league, 18-3 overall) on May 1 with a four-hitter, winning, 5-0, and although he gave up only two hits Tuesday night with eight strikeouts, it was a more difficult venture for the senior righty. He walked six, hit a batter and another Saint got aboard on an error.

“He doesn’t get stressed out,” said Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips. “When it looked like he was in trouble, he got out of it. He got that curve in there at the times he needed to. He had just enough to hold them off.”

“I was really nervous at the start, but after we got the lead, I started to relax more, and got in a groove,” said Wiecek.

Wiecek stranded nine Saints over the final six innings, including two in the third, fourth and fifth frames. He worked around leadoff walks in the sixth and seventh, ending each inning with a strikeout.

“That kid may be the best pitcher we’ve faced from Fort Plain,” said Lambert. “In the year they won the states, we faced Baker, and roughed him up. Today, we couldn’t get any timely hits, and they did.

“We were trying to figure out a pattern on him [Wiecek], and we may have been thinking too much.”

Barhydt made Fort Plain’s biggest defensive play behind Wiecek in the bottom of the fifth. The 11th-grader ran into short left field and jumped high to make a sprawling catch on Dan O’Rourke’s soft two-out liner with runners on the corners, preserving the Hilltoppers’ 4-1 advantage.

“I didn’t see the ball very well and took a step in, at first,” said Barhydt. “I knew I had to get after it. I’m just glad I made it.”

“He amazed me on that one,” Wiecek said of Barhydt. “I thought it was going to be a bloop, and it kept going, and he somehow caught it.”

“That was a tremendous play,” Lambert said.

Barhydt gave Fort Plain (15-2, 17-2) a 2-1 lead when he drilled a Garcia fastball off the base of the right-field fence, and Bo Baker lined a two-run single up the middle later in the fifth inning. That was plenty for Wiecek.

“You don’t beat Phonsey Lambert more than once in a season very often. I can remember going two, three years in a row without beating them,” said Phillips, after his all-time Section II-best 615th career victory. “When we beat them, it’s always a great win for our program.”

Brent Baker began Fort Plain’s winning rally with a one-out walk and Evan Yacowenia was hit by a pitch. After Barhydt doubled, cleanup batter Mark Hanifin was intentionally walked to fill the bases, and Garcia got an infield popout before Bo Baker’s single made it 4-1.

Fort Plain had tied the game at 1-1 in the third inning when Brent Baker hit a leadoff single and Han­ifin ripped a two-out RBI double to the right-center gap.

Saratoga Catholic got its run in the first on Dylan Anderson’s RBI groundout. Shane Matthews walked to open the inning, took second on a groundout and went to third when Wiecek’s pickoff throw sailed into the outfield.

“Beating them twice, it’s a good achievement because they’re a Class B school and we’re Class C,” said Wiecek. “It was a good game for us.”

Garcia (3-2) allowed eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks in six innings, while Matthews (in the third inning) and O’Rourke (in the fourth) both had a single.

Fort Plain has another key game Tuesday at Fonda-Fultonville (14-2, 17-3). The Braves, the third team involved in the Northern Div­ision title chase, already own a win against the Hilltoppers.

Fort Plain 001 030 0 — 4 8 2

Saratoga Catholic 100 000 0 — 1 2 0

Wiecek and Bo Baker; Garcia, McDonough (7) and Keller.

Categories: High School Sports

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