Spirited comeback by Hilltoppers comes up short

Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips is always quick to point out that his players never give up

Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips is always quick to point out that his players never give up.

The effort fell just short in Tuesday’s Class C regional final against Norwood-Norfolk at Shuttleworth Park, as the Hilltoppers’ season ended in a 5-3 loss to the Section X champions, leaving Fort Plain one win shy of getting a chance to play for a second state title.

“I think that’s the character of the coaches here, that we never allow them to quit. We never allow them to get too down,” said Phillips after the Hilltoppers brought the winning run to the plate in the seventh inning, only to see the Flyers turn a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Andrew Stone, who moved to shortstop after pitching the first 61⁄3 innings, started the play that ended the game. He also went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs from his leadoff spot for the Flyers, who dropped a one-sided contest at this stage a year ago.

“This feels good. After last year’s loss, we were ready,” Stone said.

Phillips gave Jabin Weaver the pitching start, less than 24 hours after the senior worked the final 32⁄3 innings of a 10-inning win over Ticonderoga.

“When we came in, we saw him warming up, and we knew his arm would be tired,” said Stone, who threw a four-hit complete game in the Section X championship game against St. Lawrence. “We had to get runs right off the bat in the first.”

Stone and No. 2 hitter Tyler Murray had doubles, Matt Bressett singled and Jordan LaShomb scored a run with a fly ball. Four batters in, the Hilltoppers trailed, 2-0.

“I thought the Weaver kid was a little fatigued from yesterday,” said. Flyers head coach Steve LaShomb. “That’s tough, coming back and playing 21 hours later. I’m glad to see we jumped out to a lead right off the bat.”

Weaver got better as the game progressed, but his teammates ran into hard luck.

Murray, the Norwood-Norfolk third baseman, robbed Harold Dettmer of a potential tying hit and recorded the last out of the second inning. Stone struck out just four and got nine fly ball outs.

“We hit a lot of balls right at people,” Baker said. “Their defense played great.”

Phillips chose Weaver over Baker to start the elimination game.

“Me and coach talked about it today, and I told him I wanted Jabin on the mound and me at shortstop,” said Baker, who replaced Weaver to start the fifth inning.

“I talked to Brent and asked him if he would rather start or relieve,” said Phillips. “He said, ‘I’ll do anything you want. I just want to win.’ Jabin said he was more comfortable starting. I try to let the kids make that decision.

“Jabin was 9-1 coming in. After the first inning, he breezed.”

Norwood-Norfolk added two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.

The Hilltoppers got to a tiring Stone in the seventh.

Kris Downes led off with a double, Dettmer singled and Jack Ray brought them both home with his second hard-hit double of the game.

Baker made it 5-3 when his third single of the day scored Ray. Stone left the mound in favor of Alex Ploof, who walked Weaver on four pitches.

That brought up Dylan Pechtel, whose hit ended Monday’s game. Ploof fell behind, 2-0, before inducing a game-ending double play on the only strike he threw.

“You can only get up emotionally so many times,” said Phillips, whose team was playing its sixth postseason game. “I don’t think we were flat. Maybe that 10 innings really hurt us. Maybe that took a lot out of us.”

Baker said that even with the fat­igue factor, he and his teammates could have advanced.

“Jabin didn’t have his best, but the rest of us should have been up,” he said.

“I hate to see it end,” said Phillips, who said he is undecided about returning as head coach. “We have great kids and a great progam.”

Norwood-Norfolk 200 201 0 — 5 9 1

Fort Plain 000 000 3 — 3 9 2

Stone, Ploof (7) and Brand; Weaver, B.Baker (5), Failing (7) and Ray.

Categories: High School Sports

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