SARATOGA SPRINGS – As Saratoga Springs baseball and softball opponents recently found out, the amount of confidence a team plays with is not reflected in its seeding.
Both Blue Streaks teams entered the Section II playoffs as seventh seeds. Both exited with championship plaques, and to hear the players and coaches talk, it’s as logical as anything.
Saratoga Springs’ baseball team (18-7) will play Section III’s Fayetteville-Manlius in a regional final at 1 p.m. Saturday at Shuttleworth Park. The winner advances to a state semifinal Friday at 2 p.m. against the Pine Bush/Ketcham winner at Binghamton University.
The softball team (13-11) will play Section III’s Liverpool — which won its sectional final after 11:30 p.m. Thursday — in a regional final at 4 p.m. Saturday at Luther Forest Athletic Fields. The winner moves on to a state semifinal June 11 at 9 a.m. versus the Bay Shore/Massapequa winner at Moriches Athletic Complex.
“We all knew it didn’t matter where we were ranked,” baseball player Patrick Deschaine said. “We knew we had the talent pitching-wise, hitting; we were set from any angle. As soon as the games start, we just have to play above their level.
“Most of the games we lost were really close,” he added. “I think we figured out a lot of the reasons we lost and we fixed them during practices.”
“None of us were really in our heads, that last game against Shenendehowa especially,” softball player Ellie Ripchik said. “We couldn’t be because if we were, we probably would have got crushed. We weren’t thinking we’re going to lose, we were thinking we were going to beat Shen.”
Both Saratoga Springs teams also got to where they are with the help of a couple of young players who didn’t start the seasons on the varsity squads. Eighth-grade second baseman Raul Rodriguez and freshman pitcher Jackie Cutting made significant contributions to the baseball and softball teams, respectively.
Rodriguez got called up, due to an injury, on April 15. Cutting pitched a couple of innings early in the season, then made her first start on April 13. For Rodriguez, the original plan was to stay on junior varsity, but things happen. For Cutting, she was another option for coach Geoff Loiacono.
“Coach [Andy] Cuthbertson just said one of our teammates got hurt, called me up to play,” Rodriguez recalled. “He said if I got called up, I’d play. And it started out spring break weekend – ‘You’ll play for the weekend and we’ll see how it goes after that.’ I stayed focused and now I’m here.”
“The plan was I would get a lot of innings on JV, but just be ready to be pulled up at any moment for any amount of time,” Cutting said. “I was a little nervous, but I did it a few times before I got pulled up for real. So I wasn’t nervous by the time it happened for good.”
As a pitcher, Cutting faced a good number of pressure situations during the team’s sectional run. She said what helped her was keeping her mind clear.
“I think about nothing or sometimes silly things in my mind, like food and stuff. But I just try not to think about anything,” Cutting said.
IN OTHER ACTION
Besides the baseball and softball teams from Saratoga Springs, a number of Section II teams will compete Saturday for NYSPHSAA regional championships.
In baseball, Averill Park will take on Massena at East Side Recreation Park in Saratoga Springs for a chance to play in the Class A semifinals. That Class A game takes place at 6 p.m., while Germantown will play Chapel Field Christian at noon at East Side Recreation Park for a Class D regional title before Chatham plays Norwood-Norfolk at 3 p.m. for a Class C regional championship.
Outside of Section II venues, Schuylerville will play Peru at 4 p.m. for a Class B regional championship at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Along with Saratoga Springs at Luther Forest Athletic Fields in Malta, Greenwich will play at 4 p.m. for a Class C regional championship against Norwood-Norfolk. Class A Troy will play New Hartford at Carrier Park in DeWitt at 4 p.m., while Ichabod Crane will play Canton at 1 p.m. at SUNY Potsdam for a Class B regional championship and Class D Argyle will face Bolton/Schroon Lake at SUNY Plattsburgh at 2 p.m.
Four Section II boys’ lacrosse teams will compete at Shaker Saturday for regional championships. Class D Schuylerville will take on Briar Cliff at 10 a.m.; Class A Shenendehowa will face Scarsdale at 12:30 p.m.; Class B Niskayuna will play Rye at 3 p.m.; and Class C Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will face Pelham Memorial at 5:30 p.m.
In girls’ lacrosse regional championship games at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose, Shenendehowa will start the day’s action with a Class A game against Suffern at 10 a.m. Following that game, Queensbury will face John Jay at 12:30 p.m. in Class B; Class C Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will take on Tappan Zee at 3 p.m.; and, Schuylerville will play Bronxville in Class D action at 5:30 p.m.