BURNT HILLS — The moment Mike Kennedy saw Kenile Jenkins cross home plate, he knew it was over.
Kennedy, Troy’s dominating junior pitcher, waited all Tuesday afternoon for his team to give him a lead, and when Jenkins trotted home on Nick Degiorgio’s two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to give the Flying Horses a 2-1 lead over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the Section II Class A baseball championship game, it was finally up to Kennedy to bring it home.
“Once we get that second run,” Kennedy said, “I told them it was over.”
In the top of the seventh, it took Kennedy — a hard-throwing left-hander who has committed to LSU — just eight pitches to slam the door on Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and earn Troy’s first-ever area baseball championship.
“It’s an unbelievable group of kids,” Troy coach Chris Stack said. “They fight for each other, they play with a chip on their shoulder and they go out and give everything they’ve got every day.”
Kennedy and Troy (No. 4 seed, 13-6 overall) triumphed in a stellar pitcher’s duel against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (No. 3 seed, 13-9) hurler Kyle DeCresce. The two put up nearly identical lines through the first six innings, with the game’s only runs coming on a pair of solo homers — DeCresce got Burnt Hills on the board in the bottom of the first inning, and Christian Brown answered for Troy in the third.
After DeCresce crushed a first-pitch fastball from Kennedy over the wall in left-center to open the scoring, the Troy southpaw buzzed through the Burnt Hills lineup with devastating efficiency. Just two more Spartans reached base the rest of the way — Kyle Kristel on a bunt single in the third and DeCresce on a single in the sixth — as Kennedy needed just 85 pitches to finish off a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
“Mike is one of the best pitchers I’ve been able to witness,” Stack said. “I said to one of our assistant coaches, I think the home run was the best thing to happen to us today, because it told us that he’s human and he’s not just going to dominate. We had to back him up.”
“Losing on a walk-off earlier in the season here [5-4, on May 24], we were all a little angry and wanted to be back,” Kennedy said. “I think [the home run] kind of calmed us down, even though it put us down.”
DeCresce was similarly efficient, with his only major blemish until the seventh coming when Brown launched the first pitch of the third inning over the left-field scoreboard.
But, in the top of the seventh, DeCresce hit Jenkins with a pitch to start the inning. DeCresce bounced back to strike out Brown, and after an Eric Balogh groundout moved Jenkins to scoring position, Degiorgio — Troy’s No. 9 hitter — looped an inside fastball into left that dropped for the go-ahead RBI single.
“I knew something was coming,” Degiorgio said. “I felt it.”
“A ball off the hands falls in, and that’s what happens,” Burnt Hills coach Josh Hadcock said. “That’s the game of baseball.”
Kennedy, who constantly mixed up his rhythm and put a heavy emphasis on his off-speed pitches to adjust to a Burnt Hills lineup that was sitting on his low-90s fastball, started the bottom of the seventh with two straight groundouts before fanning John Wells on three straight devastating curveballs to seal the title.
“We had the game plan,” Kennedy said. “After the first mistake, we weren’t letting it happen again.”
Troy 001 000 1 — 2 4 0
BH-BL 100 000 0 — 1 3 0