Saratoga Central Catholic baseball coach Phonsey Lambert couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
Down a run, his Saints used patient at-bats and hustle to load the bases with two out in the home seventh of Wednesday’s regional championship game against Section VII champion Beekmantown. And waiting to hit was cleanup hitter Shane Matthews.
“I’m thinking gap, I’m thinking game-winner,” said Lambert, who envisioned his team walking off the Queensbury High School field with the win that would put them into Saturday’s state semifinals. “I’m thinking, he’s going to hit something hard and pretty tough to handle.”
Instead, Matthews cued a ground ball to second, and was barely beaten by the throw to first, the final out of a 2-1 game and a 24-5 season.
That the Saints were even in a position to put the winning run on base was a feat, as Beekmantown right-hander Andrew Price had allowed only two base hits through six innings.
But these Saints, the fouth seed in the Class B sectionals, weren’t going out easy.
Senior Danny Rourke drew a one-out walk in the seventh. With the season down to one out, sophomores Dale Long and Dylan Anderson kept the Saints alive, Long working a walk and Anderson forcing an error when he hustled down the line on a ball hit to second base.
That brought up the Marist-bound Matthews, whose cut at a Price pitch resulted in a bang-bang play at first.
“It looked like he got it off the small part of the bat, and they just nipped him at first base,” said Lambert. “I would take that situation any time, bases loaded and one of the best players we’ve ever had in our program up.
“It looked like he was a just little out in front.”
Price finished with a two-hitter and struck out nine, six looking.
“He’s one of our senior leaders. He’s been doing this his whole career,” said Beekantown coach Jim Knight Jr. “He came up as a freshman halfway through the season, and pitched in a playoff game that year.
“He had an 18-strikeout game and a 17-strikeout game this year. He’s that type of pitcher. He throws two types of breaking balls, and his fastball is pretty good. And he can locate well.”
Anderson battled on the mound for the Saints, giving up seven hits, all singles. Three of those hits produced a run in the second inning.
The other Eagles’ run, in the fifth, was unearned. Anderson hit Luke Weaver, the first batter of the inning, and Price’s one-out grounder got through shortstop Billy McDonough.
Frank Buska then lofted a ball to medium center, and Weaver barely beat Matthews’ throw to the plate.
“The kid is money,” Lambert said of Anderson. “I knew he was going to keep us in the game the whole way. It was just a matter of us being able to muster some runs, and we just couldn’t seem to get anything across.”
Price retired the first seven hitters he saw after getting the lead, the walk to O’Rourke ending the streak.
“Nerve-racking to say the least, but if it were clean and easy, I wouldn’t expect it out of my guys,” said Knight of the seventh inning.
“I was wondering if we were going to be able to get back to the top of the order, because he [Price] was starting to get into a little bit of a groove,” said Lambert, who had four 10th-graders in the lineup.
“Dale Long had a pretty good at- bat, and so did Dylan.
We were able to get our big guy up there with the bases loaded, but it was one of those things. That’s baseball.”
Matt Angelini drove in the Saints’ run with a third-inning single.
“Their pitcher kept us off-balance,” said Lambert. “We’ve seen good pitching this year, but when you’re playing for one run, it’s tough.
“We put ourselves in a position to win. That’s a tribute to my guys. I told them for what they had to go through, I’m as proud of them as any of our chanpionship teams.”
Beekmantown 010 010 0 — 2 7 1
Saratoga Catholic 001 000 0 — 1 2 3
Price and Buska; Anderson and Keller.
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Categories: High School Sports