AMSTERDAM — Saratoga Springs had its defense and pitching going at a high level from the start in its Class AA semifinal baseball game with Shenendehowa Monday at Shuttleworth Park.
Once the offense caught up, the Blue Streaks were on their way to the championship round of the Section II tournament after topping their archrival
Noah Joly clubbed a three-run home run to cap off a six-run, sixth-inning for the Blue Streaks, and stingy Saratoga Springs starter Patrick Deschaine got a big lift from his fielding teammates in a 7-1 victory.
Shenendehowa got the jump in the rubber match between the Suburban Council rivals when Alex Sandberg homered in the third inning. Saratoga Springs tied it in the fifth and pulled away in the next frame to earn a spot in Section II’s first Class AA best-of-three championship series that starts Wednesday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy against Shaker.
“They pounced first, and we pounced last,” Saratoga Springs coach Andy Cuthbertson said. “It was a good team win. We were locked in for all seven innings and played good baseball.”
Deschaine allowed five hits — Sandberg’s homer, plus four Plainsmen singles — while striking out three and walking three in six-plus innings before Xavier Garcia finished up. Deschaine was the benefactor of several sensational defensive plays, with Charles DeRizzo providing the first one when he perfectly played Ethan Farina’s first-inning hit off the left field wall and threw him out at second base.
“He [DeRizzo] set the tone with that throw,” Cuthbertson said. “That was a good momentum builder for what kind of defense we wanted to play.”
Saratoga Springs right fielder Ben McKinley saved a run in the Plainsmen’s third when he raced forward and made a diving grab on a drive by Nick Barrese. Sandberg came up after that and homered over the left-field wall.
“After the home run, we all stayed locked in,” said Deschaine, a senior lefty. “It was still early and we knew what we had to do.”
Saratoga Springs leadoff batter Raul Rodriguez singled in the fifth off Shenendehowa starter Nicholas Jos, and scored to tie the game on Nathan Rodriguez’ two-out double.
Seventh-seeded Saratoga (16-7) scored six more runs off Jos in the following inning before Nino Salati came on in relief. In all, those two hurlers faced 11 batters, with Joly’s three-run homer to left chasing Jos.
“It felt good. I was struggling up to that point,” said Joly, who popped out, flew out and grounded out before his three-run blast. “I got an inner-half pitch and turned on it.”
Alexander Teator and DeRizzo sandwiched singles around a flyout to begin the Saratoga sixth, and Michael Mack hit a tie-breaking RBI double. Later, with the bases loaded, two more runs came across on a Raul Rodriguez single before Joly went deep.
“Once they got it going, it was non-stop,” Deschaine said. “We kept rallying.”
Sixth-seeded Shenendehowa (12-10) threatened in the seventh on a walk and single by Austin Caldwell that chased Deschaine.
“He really honed in the second time around,” said Joly, who caught Deschaine and later Garcia.
Garcia faced only two batters as Teator fielded a grounder from his shortstop position and turned it into a double play. Garcia then induced a game-ending grounder that Nathan Rodriguez handled from his third base spot..
Nathan Rodriguez had turned a backhand snag down the line and long throw into a second-inning out. Teator dove for a liner and his strong throw got an out in the fifth. In the sixth, Teator started a 6-4-3 double play.
“It’s a great feeling knowing my team is there for me,” Deschaine said.
“Our middle [infield] is lightning,” Cuthbertson said of Teeter and his second baseman, Raul Rodriguez. “I love when a ball is hit there. Our pitchers do, too.”
Raul Rodriguez, an eighth-grade mid-season call-up from the JV level, had a double and two singles, while DeRizzo had two singles. Five other Blue Streaks contributed hits.
Both Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa had knocked off higher seeds in the quarterfinals, with the Blue Streaks topping second-seeded Guilderland 2-0 and the Plainsmen clipping third-seeded CBA 4-2. Saratoga Springs — in search of its first Section II title since 2015 — also beat 10th-seeded Niskayuna in a first-round contest 2-1.
After Wednesday’s Class AA best-of-three opener, the series will continue Friday and, if necessary, Sunday.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase multiple pitchers, and in true fashion, the best team will win,” Cuthbertson said.
SHAKER TOPS COLUMBIA
In its semifinal, Shaker earned a 2-0 win against Columbia.
Andrew Dongelewic struck out 11 batters in the shutout, while Joe Trombley had two hits, and Sam Case added a double and an RBI.
Columbia’s Jacob Skarlis struck out 11 batters in six innings. One of the two runs Skarlis allowed was unearned.
SARATOGA SPRINGS 7, SHENENDEHOWA 1
Saratoga Springs 000 016 0 — 7 10 1
Shenendehowa 001 000 0 — 1 5 1
SHAKER 2, COLUMBIA 0
Columbia 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Shaker 001 010 x — 2 7 3