TROY — The Saratoga Springs baseball team is headed back to the Section 2 Class AA championship series.
On Monday afternoon at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, the Blue Streaks struck first and held on to defeat Niskayuna 3-1 in the Class AA semifinals.
“Being in sectionals, it’s a completely different energy,” said Saratoga Springs starting pitcher Christian Mello. “You know every game might be your last with this group and you don’t want it to end.”
Mello and Niskayuna starter Billy Canale traded zeroes on the scoreboard, until the bottom of the fourth inning.
Pat McKinley got the inning started with a single, as Louie Longobardo came in to pinch run. After stealing second base, Longobardo came in to score the first run of the game on an RBI single from Drew Adams.
“I was just focusing on putting the bat on the ball. That’s really all I was thinking about,” Adams said. “It was big to grab the lead there and it really hyped the dugout up.”
Orion Lansing then drove in Adams with another single, providing the Blue Streaks with a 2-0 lead.
“It relieved some tension,” Lansing said of Adams’ go-ahead single. “I could relax a bit with a run up there and it allowed me to put together a good at-bat. I stayed tall and drove one out of the infield.”
Niskayuna had its best chance to even up the game in the top of the fifth. The Silver Warriors were able to load the bases, without having a ball leave the infield.
After Jacob Pirrone-Salisbury drove in a run for Niskayuna on a sacrifice fly, Mello was able to escape the inning without any further damage.
“I just had to keep my composure. That’s really what allowed me to be able to finish that inning,” Mello said. “Being able to get out of those innings, the fifth and sixth, it was a big momentum shift.”
“Their guy pitched in and out of trouble a few innings,” said Niskayuna coach Chris Bianchi. “He seemed to have the flurry in the fifth inning there and we just couldn’t push across more than one. It seemed like we maybe had them on the ropes, but we let them off the hook.”
Saratoga Springs tacked on one more run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Camden Rhude led off with a triple, scoring on a base hit down the right field line by Michael Mack.
Mello came back out to start the seventh inning, looking to close out the semifinal victory. After a leadoff walk, he was relieved by side-arming righthander Trevor Duthaler.
Mello went six-plus innings and allowed just two hits and one unearned run. He struck out three and walked three, earning the win.
“He was super-prepared for this start, but the one thing I want to highlight is that I saw a different level of composure from him today,” said Saratoga Springs coach Andy Cuthbertson on Mello. “Usually he’s this big, intense football guy. He was composed, calm and super confident. It’s been a long season and this was his best start.”
On his second pitch, Duthaler induced a 6-4-3 double play. Saratoga Springs’ centerfielder Owen Redick used his full extension to record the final out on a ball hit into the right-center gap.
“We knew it was going to be a close game, with two good teams with some good pitchers,” Bianchi said. “It didn’t go our way tonight. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Canale went 3 1/3 innings for the Silver Warriors and was responsible for two runs on three hits. Zach Mravlja allowed one run and three hits over 1 2/3 innings. Jacob Pirrone-Salisbury struck out the side in the final inning for the Silver Warriors.
No. 3 Niskayuna finished its season with a 14-8 overall record.
No 2. Saratoga Springs, 17-5 overall, is headed back to the AA championship series for the second straight year. After losing to both CBA and Niskayuna during the regular season, the Blue Streaks earned win over those two teams during the tournament.
“There wasn’t a team we lost to that we couldn’t beat and that’s been evident in our last two games against CBA and Niskayuna,” Mello said. “At the end of the day, we have to come out here to compete if we’re going to win the championship again.”
SHENENDEHOWA MOUNTS COMEBACK IN AA SEMIS
No. 1 Shenendehowa faced off against No. 5 Bethlehem in the second Class AA semifinal game on Monday evening, and the Plainsmen didn’t get off to a great start.
Bethlehem took advantage of an error in the first inning to take an early lead. Then, in the top of the third, the Eagles strung together four hits to take a 3-0 lead.
Jason Clawson got Shenendehowa back in the game with a two-run single in the the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Plainsmen used a four-spot in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead. Thomas Hall had the game-tying hit, driving in Ryan Cronin who led off the inning with a double.
Ethan Farina proved to be the difference-maker, with a two-run double to make the score 5-3. A sacrifice fly from Brendan Gonzalez gave the Plainsmen a 6-3 lead.
“We just had to trust our process,” said Farina, who went 3 for 4. “We’ve prepared for this all season and we executed.”
Nino Salati allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on seven hits in the start for Shenendehowa. Brendan Shields, Brad Curtis and R.J. Ensel each pitched an inning of scoreless relief in the win.
Dan Battista and Clayton Dutfield each had two hits and an RBI for Bethlehem.
The first game of the Class AA championship series between Shenendehowa and Saratoga Springs will be on Wednesday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium at 7 p.m. The next two games of the best-of-three series are slated for Friday and Sunday.
Niskayuna 000 010 0 — 1 2 1
Saratoga Springs 000 210 X — 3 6 2
Bethlehem 102 000 0 — 3 7 2
Shenendehowa 000 204 X — 6 7 4