A base hit and the Indians are certainly back in it, and maybe even on their way back to the state tournament they won the last two years.
It was Hoosic Valley’ best chance.
“Bases loaded, I knew I wanted the ball,” Schalmont junior second baseman Jake Defayette said. “The ball is coming to me and I see their kid coming off. That was a big momentum swing.”
Defayette’s catch of the hard line drive and flip to first base for a double play in the top of the fifth inning preserved Schalmont’s two-run lead. The Sabres added two more runs in the sixth, and Brian Mahar went the full seven in a 4-0 Section II Class B-BB playoff win Saturday at Ballston Spa High School.
“I thought I was in trouble,” Mahar, a junior right-hander, said after hurling his second postseason shutout. “That double play completely changed the game. That was huge. If that goes through, they’re up.”
Kyle Hirsch and Matt Rash hit run-scoring singles in the third, Tim Ryan delivered a two-run single in the sixth and Mahar scattered five hits, struck out seven and walked three in a victory that propelled Schalmont (17-7) into the state tournament for the third time in four years and kept Hoosic Valley (17-7) out.
Schalmont won the state Class B crown in 2014, the year Hoosic Valley claimed the first of its two New York Class C flags.
“The winning tradition, it’s instilled in us,” second-year Schalmont coach Chris Teta said. “I was a player here for coach [Bob] Anderson and I was his JV coach here. I didn’t want to let anyone down, and last year, I feel like we had a letdown. I didn’t like that taste. This year we came in hungry. The boys played hard.”
Schalmont won its fifth playoff game Saturday following its 7-2 Class BB title-game victory over Saratoga Central Catholic Wednesday, and wins before against Schuylerville, Hudson and Glens Falls. Schalmont’s 2015 season ended with a first-round sectional setback against Catskill.
“That’s amazing,” Mahar said of the three state tournament berths in four years; Schalmont’s 2013 team lost in the regionals. “We’ve got a great program, great coaches. We make the most out of what we’ve got.”
Dale Maxon got plunked by a pitch to begin the Hoosic Valley fifth, and, after a strikeout, Matt Espey drew a walk and Jimmy Burnell reached on a bunt single. Alex Carlo then ripped a 3-and-1 fastball directly at Defayette, who began the key double play.
“That was a game-changer right there,” Teta said. “In the dugout we’re thinking we get a double play, that would be good. It worked out. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
A bit higher and Carlo, the Indians’ No. 3 batter, has a gapper and at the very least two RBIs.
“We’ve had situations where good luck has gone our way,” Hoosic Valley coach George Rogers said. “We caught our end of bad luck.”
Defayette handled a grounder and snagged a liner to end the first and third innings with runners on third base. Mahar recorded a strikeout in the second inning after issuing a pair of two-out walks.
“These guys are capable,” Rogers said. “We picked the wrong time to not play our best. We had seven strikeouts. I don’t know the last time we has seven strikeouts. We had a running blunder. We didn’t bunt well.”
Hoosic Valley’s last threat came in the seventh when a pair of singles put runners on the corners. Mahar induced a grounder to Rash, and the shortstop stepped on second base to end the game.
“Pitching is the name of the game,” Teta said. “We feel confident, very positive, when we put Brian Mahar, Chris Hamilton, Brandon LaRue, Alex Schlag on the mound. That’s our strength.”
Another is pop throughout the lineup. Teta used a designated hitter for Tony Silvestri until the seventh inning when the Sabres’ catcher — batting in the No. 8 hole — singled to load the bases. Ryan followed with his two-run single.
Rash started the seventh with his second single, and Hirsch also had two singles.
“Everyone in our lineup can hit,” Defayette said. “Tony comes in cold and gets a hit. Our No. 9 guy drives in two runs.”
Schalmont will return to Ballston Spa Thursday at 4 for a sub-regional game against Section VII champ Plattsburgh.
Hoosic Valley beat Coxsackie-Athens 8-5 to secure the Section II Class B championship.
Hoosic Valley 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Schalmont 002 002 x — 4 7 1
Snyder, Soucy (4) and Duncan; Mahar and Silvestri.