For a handful of the Schalmont Sabres, the toughest part of Saturday’s Class B Regional Final was simply getting to the ballpark on time. The game that followed was a breeze in comparison.
When Schalmont faced against Ogdensburg Free Academy, the Sabres had just enough time to get five of their players, including three starters, to the game. One didn’t arrive until Schalmont starter Brandon LaRue had already issued a leadoff walk to open the game. The cause? Those five players spent their mornings taking the SAT in Guilderland, 33 miles south of Ballston Spa High School, which hosted the matchup.
“It is what it is, we have to deal with it just like any other team has to deal with it,” head coach Chris Teta said. “It didn’t really make much of a difference today. We had our role players step in and do their job, and we were eventually to get our regulars out there for most of the game.”
The scene was a hectic one, with players sprinting through the gates and into the dugouts upon arriving.
“I was proud of the way we were able to put it behind us and focus on the game,” first baseman Chris Hamilton said.
The morning hardly deterred the Sabres, who won the game handily 9-0, advancing to the Class B State Semifinals.
A key moment occurred early, with OFA’s Peyton Lalone on third and one out in the top of the first inning. Third base coach Tom Pinkerton decided to be aggressive, sending Lalone home on a groundout to shortstop Matt Rash. Hamilton gunned down Lalone at the plate on a bang-bang play. Both Lalone and Pinkerton were displeased with the call.
Lalone, who took the mound to start the game for OFA, seemed to struggle to put the play behind him. After walking the first batter and hitting the next, Lalone surrendered a towering fly ball to left field off the bat of Hamilton that OFA’s Alex Rickett couldn’t get a glove on. The double scored the game’s first run.
Two batters later, LaRue singled home two more to make it 3-0 Sabres.
From there Lalone continued to battle command issues. After recording the inning’s second out, he walked three straight batters and hit another, forcing home another pair of runs for Schalmont. The third hit batter of the inning scored another run to make it 6-0 before Ethan Baldwin relieved Lalone and finally stopped the onslaught, recording the third out of the inning.
When Lalone stepped off the mound after being pulled from the game, he had words for the home plate umpire, still unhappy with the game’s officiating.
In total, Schalmont sent 12 batters to the plate, collecting just three hits in the process.
LaRue returned to the mound in the top of the second with an important inning, working around a leadoff walk by striking out a pair.
“Shutdown innings are always key,” Teta said. “Pitching has been our strength all season long, and Brandon did his job today.”
“I knew what I had to do, so I did it,” LaRue said.
LaRue proceeded to dominate the day, surrendering just two hits over five scoreless frames before Alex Schlag tossed a pair of scoreless innings to close out the victory.
Baldwin settled in for OFA and kept his team in it for the time being. However, he couldn’t hold the Sabres attack for long, as Rash drove in another pair with a two-RBI single in the third to make it 8-0.
Tim Ryan added an RBI-double in the fourth to give Schalmont its ninth and final run of the afternoon.
Schlag’s own highlight came on a diving grab in center field to end the bottom of the fifth.
And as if things hadn’t gone their way all afternoon up to this point, Schalmont once again benefited from Pinkerton’s overaggressiveness as Ryan Pepicelli threw out an OFA runner trying to score from second on a base hit to center field for the game’s final out.
“It’s gratifying, it really is,” Teta said of moving on to the final four. “Being a player at Schalmont, then taking over the JV program 13-14 years ago and watching this program grow since then has been amazing.
“Our chances are just as good as anybody else’s. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
OFA 000 000 0 — 0 2 3
Schalmont 602 100 x — 9 7 1
LaRue, Schlag (6) and Silvestri; Lalone, Baldwin (1) and unavailable, Lalone (1).