AMSTERDAM — Ballston Spa has had its heroes all season long. This time, it was Donovan Rhoden.
Down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, he came up with the Scotties’ biggest hit of the season and possibly the history of the program, a two-run home run into Shuttleworth Park’s right-field porch to give them a 3-2 lead, and the Scotties went on to a 4-2 win in the Class A state baseball regional final over Section III’s Whitesboro on Saturday afternoon at Shuttleworth Park.
The magic for Ballston Spa began with the last two outs of the top of the sixth inning as they turned a double play to end the inning.
The Scotties came into the bottom half of the frame with near the top of the order due to bat. Luke Gold walked to lead it off, the first time Ballston Spa had the first batter of an inning on base all afternoon. Jake Manderson popped out for the first out. Gold stole second to put himself in scoring position. On a 2-0 pitch, Rhoden drove the ball into deep right field and over the wall, sending the team and crowd into a frenzy, giving the Scotties the lead that they did not give up. The entire team met him at home plate after his home run trot.
“It was amazing. It was the best moment of my baseball career, definitely,” Rhoden said.
Scotties coach Curtis Nobles said Rhoden had been sick all day on Friday and “couldn’t even get out of his car,” but practiced anyway before becoming the hero Saturday.
In the middle of the game, things had begun to look bleak for the Scotties. The first three innings of the game were scoreless, until Whitesboro starting pitcher Avery Cook got his offense going with a solo home run in the top of the fourth off of Manderson. The Scotties tied it in the bottom half as Rhoden got caught between first and second on a pickoff with Manderson on third, and Cook threw the ball into center field, scoring Manderson.
Whitesboro took a 2-1 lead in the took the lead in the top of the fifth when Noah Scranton scored on a throwing error.
However, Ballston Spa never believed the game was over.
“Our mantra is ‘21 outs.’ We never, ever give up until those 21 outs are recorded,” Nobles said. “That’s why I never feel down. These guys always fight, they’re brothers, they stay together, and you saw the result at the end there.”
The late-game heroics by the offense provided a ton of relief for Manderson as he ended up throwing a complete game and only gave up three hits.
“I think I knew I had to do it, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to finish the game I started,” Manderson said.
The Scotties got a third run in the sixth inning to make it 4-2, but Manderson did not need it as he set Whitesboro down in order in the seventh to earn the win.
This marks the first time in program history that the Scotties advance to the state semifinals, uncharted territory for them. They will play on Friday at 5 p.m. in Binghamton against either W.T. Clarke of Section VIII or Sayville of Section XI.
“This is a great moment,” Nobles said. “The kids deserve it, they believe in one another and I can’t explain the feeling for myself, but I know it’s a lot of joy going on in that dugout.”
Whitesboro 000 110 0 — 2 3 1
Ballston Spa 000 103 x — 4 3 1