SARATOGA SPRINGS — In a game where just three runs were scored, every run was essential in Wednesday’s Section II Class AA first-round game between Saratoga Springs and Niskayuna at East Side Rec.
The seventh-seeded Blue Streaks trailed most of the way before scoring their first run in the bottom of the sixth when Niskayuna pitcher Parker Aikens was called for a balk with two outs and a runner on third.
With the game tied, Saratoga Springs capitalized by plating the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Charlie DeRizzo singled home Owen Redick to lift the Blue Streaks to a 2-1 win over the 10th-seeded Silver Warriors and a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“With a lefty on the mound, I didn’t see him [Aikens] go to his mouth from the third-base coaches’ box,” Saratoga Springs coach Andrew Cuthbertson said. “However, with a three-umpire system, they can hone in on things like that.”
For Niskayuna coach Chris Bianchi, the call was tough to take as his team turned in a strong effort.
“One bad call decided the game. To have the only run they scored in seven innings come on a balk is tough,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it came down to that. It’s a difficult pill for us to swallow. I thought we played well enough and did everything we needed to do to win.”
The controversial call overshadowed a pitcher’s duel between Aikens and Saratoga Springs starter Pat Deschaine.
“Both pitchers threw a great game,” Cuthbertson said. “Kudos to both of them.”
Bianchi echoed Cuthbertson’s sentiment, saying, “I tip my cap to both pitchers. They both had great games.”
Aikens allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two in seven innings, throwing 95 pitches.
“Parker threw a great game for us,” Bianchi said. “He’s just a sophomore, and he did an excellent job. I feel terrible for him.”
Deschaine went the distance for the Blue Streaks, throwing 112 pitches. He scattered four hits, struck out nine and walked one.
“Pat pitched a great game,” Cuthbertson said. “He did a nice job, and having him go the distance is huge for us going into Friday’s game. We’ve got a full bullpen loaded up now.”
The game was a close one throughout, just like the regular-season meeting between the teams. In that meeting, Niskayuna posted a 4-3 win at Saratoga Springs on April 22.
The Silver Warriors struck first in Wednesday’s rematch between the Suburban Council foes when Ryan Funyak belted a one-out triple to right field before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Duncan Munro.
That run was the only run of the game until the Blue Streaks tied the game in the sixth inning.
Saratoga Springs didn’t register its first hit until the bottom of the fourth when Noah Joly singled to left after Raul Rodriguez reached on a leadoff walk to become the Blue Streaks’ first baserunner.
A double play got Niskayuna out of the inning.
The Silver Warriors nearly added to their lead in the top of the fifth when Funyak led off with a bloop single before getting thrown out going home to end the inning when Tyler Toth reached on an error.
Saratoga Springs pulled even in the bottom of the sixth when DeRizzo scored from third on Aikens’ balk.
After a scoreless seventh, Niskayuna got a two-out single in the top of the eighth from Toth but were unable to capitalize.
The Blue Streaks quickly brought the game to an end in their half of the eighth after Redick led off with a triple to the left-field corner, bringing DeRizzo to the plate and Tanner Wood to the mound to replace Aikens.
“Owen leading off the bottom of the eighth with a triple was huge,” Cuthbertson said. “It gave us three outs to get him home. Charlie came through for us.”
After working a 3-2 count, DeRizzo ended the game with an RBI single to center.
“To have the inning start with a triple was big,” DeRizzo said. “I was able to go up there and focus on getting the job done.”
It was the second hit of the game for DeRizzo, who finished 2-for-3. Redick’s triple and singles by Nate Rodriguez and Joly were the only hits for the Blue Streaks.
“I think we played well under pressure,” Cuthbertson said. “We’ve done a good job of trusting the process.”
Funyak finished 2-for-3 with a triple for the Silver Warriors, while Toth and Johnson each had singles.
Saratoga Springs (14-7 overall) is scheduled to face second-seeded Guilderland in Friday’s quarterfinals at Dutchmen Park at 1 p.m. Guilderland won the regular-season meeting 4-2 on April 11 in Saratoga Springs.
“We’ve just got to play together, have each other’s back, and play our best,” DeRizzo said.
Niskayuna finished its season with a 7-13 overall record.
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