AMSTERDAM — First, the Fayetteville-Manlius baseball team played small ball.
Then the Hornets played small wall.
It added up to a 10-2 victory over Saratoga Springs in a NYSPHSAA Class AA regional final at Shuttleworth Park on Saturday, sending F-M to the state semifinals and the Blue Streaks home with a disappointing end to an interesting and rewarding 18-8 season.
F-M bunted its way to a 4-0 lead before Saratoga Springs scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, then the Hornets took advantage of the 288-foot left-field wall with home runs from Robert Mason and Eitan Spinoza in the fifth for a 7-2 lead.
Saratoga’s last gasp to stay in the game ended in the bottom of the fifth when the Blue Streaks failed to get a run across despite having baserunners on first and second with no outs.
“It’s hard to judge off your last game when you lose it, to determine the whole season,” Saratoga head coach Andy Cuthbertson said. “But we told these guys that they’re winners. We did win a section title, made our community very proud and gave the younger guys in our program something to look up to. So, for that, they had to keep their head up high.”
“I could be better … lots of emotions,” Saratoga senior Patrick Deschaine said. “It’s just kind of difficult to picture my last high school game here, but everything comes to an end eventually.”
The Hornets got their leadoff hitter on base in each of the second, third and fourth innings, and used sacrifice bunts in each case to put themselves in better position to score.
Christopher Hoalcraft hit a double off the St. Mary’s Healthcare sign just left of straightaway centerfield to start the second, moved to third on a sacrifice by Samuel Kuss and scored on a groundout.
Saratoga starting pitcher Michael Mack bounced a pitch off the helmet of Ethan Powell to start the third, Powell was bunted to second by Seth Albert, and after Mack barely brushed Michael Dutch with a pitch, Powell and Dutch scored on singles by Mason and Holacraft, respectively.
Spinoza scored in the fourth to make it 4-0 after drawing a leadoff walk, moving over on a bunt and coming home on a sacrifice fly.
“We didn’t really face too much bunting in our league, so we didn’t have too much experience defending it properly,” Deschaine said. “All the bunts got to a point where they were eating us alive.”
“They played small ball very well,” Cuthbertson said. “They put the ball in play. Kudos to their pitcher for keeping our guys off balance and preventing us from rallying.”
“These guys definitely could hit,” Saratoga senior Alexander Teator said. “One thing I noticed that set them apart was some very good small ball. Most of their runs when we were still in the game were bunted over. They just did a good job of getting them on, getting them over and getting them in.”
Saratoga finally got the leadoff batter out in the top of the fifth, but Mason ripped the next pitch from Mack over the leftfield wall.
Deschaine relieved on the mound and immediately gave up a double to Hoalcraft, then a two-run homer to Spinoza for a 7-2 F-M lead.
“That’s a 290-foot fence; a 12-year-old could hit it out of here, but it happens,” Deschaine said. “You’ve got to give them props for hitting the ball that way.”
Saratoga scored both of its runs in the bottom of the fourth, the second of which was the product of an errant throw to third by F-M pitcher Maxwell Danaher after Danaher somehow caught a rocket up the middle off Owen Redick’s bat.
The Blue Streaks were in position to chip away in the bottom of the fifth when Ben McKinley walked and Raul Rodriguez singled to start the inning, but F-M got out of it when Albert made a diving catch of Teator’s blooper to centerfield for the third out.
“I thought it was dropping,” Teator said. “I didn’t really get a good piece of it. I was jammed, and it popped up. Those usually find a way to drop in that triangle, but unfortunately, it didn’t.
Saratoga can look back on a season in which the Blue Streaks won a Section II championship despite coming into the tournament as the No. 7 seed.
“They’re a bunch of grinders,” Cuthbertson said. “They came together early in the season, had a no-quit attitude, and I think down the stretch we proved that we’re a bunch of guys that wouldn’t quit and gave everybody the best we could.”
“By the end of the season, we figured it out, and came up and won a sectional title,” Deschaine said.
“This was a really special group of guys,” Teator said. “We went to Florida together, we bonded. We started the season hot, then we kind of got in a bit of a slide, then we picked it back up. So it was really a rollercoaster all year. We just had very good chemistry, and this playoff push really brought us closer together. It just hurts to end it.”
IN OTHER ACTION
Averill Park dominated its way to the Class A semifinals, needing just five innings to pick up a 13-0 win over Section X’s Massena at East Side Recreation Park in Saratoga Springs.
The Warriors dominated early, with seven runs in the first inning and five more in the second.
In Class B, Schuylerville put up four runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back, stamping its trip to the state semifinals with a 7-3 win over Peru at SUNY Plattsburgh.
In Class C, Chatham’s Matthew Thorsen threw a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over Section X’s Norwood-Norfolk at East Side Recreation Park. Thorsen was a hit batter away from a perfect game. The Chatham offense was led by two doubles from Kyle Jackson and a triple and single from Michael Pierro.
In Class D, Germantown’s season was ended with a 2-0 loss to Chapel Field at East Side Rec.