It was a whirlwind, successful week for the Albany Athletics baseball team.
In five days, the Athletics won two championships. Last Tuesday, the Athletics captured their sixth straight Albany Twilight League title.
Then on Sunday, the Athletics came out of the losers’ bracket to win the AABC Northeast World Series title, beating the Terryville Black Sox twice in Waterbury, Connecticut. They won Game 1 3-1 in 10 innings, and then overcame a 4-1 deficit in Game 2 to beat the Black Sox 5-4.
It was the Athletics’ third AABC Northeast World Series title, and their first since 2016. They also won in 2012.
It was an exhausting week, but a bountiful one for the Athletics.
“This one’s important because it proves we can win outside of the Albany Twilight League, outside of New York State and that we can play with the best in the region,” Athletics manager Joe Altieri said in a telephone interview Monday night. “The four teams here [the Braintree White Sox and the Milford Hunters were the other clubs] that were in the tournament were the four final semifinalists last year. And I think it was three years ago, the same four beat up on everyone else in the tournament to get to the semifinals again. You’re talking about playing very good teams, and proving that we can go outside the Twilight League and be competitive and win outside the league, that it does mean a lot to us.”
The Athletics opened the tournament Friday with a 2-0 victory over Braintree. Pitcher Chris Salamida tossed a complete-game four-hitter. The left-hander struck out eight and pitched out a bases-loaded jam in the second inning.
On Saturday, a three-run fifth inning by Terryville gave it a 5-2 win. Now, the pressure was on the Athletics, not only to keep-winning in the double-elimination tournament, but to make sure they had a place to stay if they won their losers’ bracket game.
“There were two pressures, the pressure to keep alive in the tournament, and the pressure to make sure your hotel rooms weren’t released that night,” Altieri said. “We had to check out of our rooms in case things didn’t go our way on Saturday, and then hope that we were in a position by about 3 o’clock to be calling the hotel saying we’re coming back.
“The games went a little long. I could see the hotel calling me on my phone. I couldn’t answer the phone because the game was in the fifth, sixth inning, and it was a 2-0 game. I couldn’t do anything yet.”
The Athletics were able to check back into the hotel, thanks to their 2-0 win over Milford. That set up the rematch with Terryville on Sunday. The Athletics needed to win twice to take the championship.
They took care of business. In Game 1, Mike Talavera had an RBI triple in the 10th inning and scored on Nate Novak’s single to force the deciding game. After falling behind by three in the top of the fifth, Talavera hit a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-3. In the sixth, Jared Russell hit a two-out, two-run single to give the Athletics the lead.
Salamida, who closed out Game 1, finished off Terryville in Game 2 to clinch the title. Salamida was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“Chris was telling me both games, ‘I’ll come in anytime you need me. I’ve got seven, eight, nine innings, whatever you need, I’ll give you,’” Altieri said. “I said, ‘My goal with you is to bring you in fresh, as fresh as you can be at the end of the game, not having you cycle through the lineup twice,’ trying to get him cycling through the lineup once. If that meant the fifth sixth [or] seventh, that’s what it was. But fortunately, he came in a position where we had a lead in, shut the door and we won the game.”
The Athletics finished the season with a 38-5-2 record. Altieri is proud of what the team accomplished this season.
“Every year, we set out with the goal to win the Twilight League and win the World Series, and it’s always easier said than done.” Altieri said. To win both is a very tall task, so you expect your team to fight and rise to the challenge, but you don’t know what will happen. You can’t predict what’s going to happen from the beginning of the season to the end. We had some key injuries happen in mid-July. And then what happened was the pitchers stepped up with three complete games on Friday and Saturday, and then, of course, the pitchers that threw Sunday, they did a great job.
“I don’t want to say we didn’t expect to win. But we knew we had a tall task and a challenge at the start of the season.”