TROY — The Saratoga Springs baseball team was not going to be denied a Game 1 victory over Shenendehowa, as the Section 2 Class AA championship series kicked off on Wednesday night.
Junior ace Michael Mack tossed his sixth complete game of the season for Saratoga Springs in a 3-2 victory over Shenendehowa.
“He’s such a gamer,” Saratoga Springs coach Andy Cuthbertson said of Mack. “He wants to be the leader, going out there leading the charge and he did that today.”
The Blue Streaks got on the board first, in the top of the second inning. After Owen Redick drew a walk against Shenendehowa starting pitcher Brendan Shields, Drew Adams reached on a chopper that got by Shenendehowa second baseman Ryan Cronin.
The Plainsmen proceeded to throw the ball around, allowing Redick to score all the way from first.
“I knew I could get to third,” Redick said of the initial play. “Then they overthrew to third and then to second and it got by them, and I just took off.”
“Scoring first is definitely a big thing for us,” Redick added. “We’ve struggled to do that at times, but when we’re able to, we put ourselves in the driver’s seat and usually good things happen.”
Shenendehowa took the momentum back in the bottom of the third inning. After Evan Kochanskyj reached on a dropped third strike, the Blue Streaks weren’t able to turn a double-play to end the inning, just getting one out at second on a fielder’s choice.
Ethan Farina made the most of the opportunity for the Plainsmen, lining a go-ahead, two-run home run over the left field wall.
“After the home run everyone was kind of down,” said Mack. I knew I made a bad pitch, but I knew I just had to keep going out there and making my pitches and I’d be fine.”
The Blue Streaks got that run right back in the top of the fourth. Pat McKinley and Redick got things started with leadoff singles and were moved over on a soft roller to shortstop.
Freshman third-baseman Jack Rigabar tied the game up, 2-2, with a sacrifice fly to center.
Saratoga Springs regained the lead in the top of the fifth. Ben McKinley, who singled to center with two outs, scored on an RBI double to left by Mack.
“Right off the bat I knew it was going to get down,” Ben McKinley said. “I just put my head down, running full speed since we needed that one run to take the lead.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Shenendehowa was able to load the bases, with two outs, after two errors by Saratoga Springs. Mack escaped the jam with an infield pop-up, which he caught himself up the third-base line.
“It’s big to have a short mind and not let things get to you,” Mack said. “I was trying not to show emotion on the mound and I think staying calm helps with the umpires and everything else.”
“He can carry a team any day he wants,” said Redick, Saratoga’s senior center fielder. “He’s thrown six complete games this year. He’s just unreal and the true definition of an ace. He’s one of my best friends. I love to play with that kid and I’m going to miss him.”
Raul Rodriguez, the Blue Streak’s freshman shortstop, collected two hits in the game, surpassing 50 for his varsity career. Ben McKinley also had a two-hit game.
Mack retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh, but not without a scare from Shenendehowa pinch-hitter Ian Oehlschlaeger. Adams made the grab, on the run, in deep left center to record the final out of game one.
The junior right-hander struck out 10 and did not walk a hitter. He surrendered three hits, with both runs against him credited as unearned. Mack has thrown a complete game in each of his last six starts.
“His stuff is so electric, keeping hitters off balance,” Cuthbertson said. “You know that he’s going to go out there and compete. If he does get contact, it’s usually soft contact.”
Aside from Farina’s two-run home run, the only other hits off Mack came from Austin Caldwell, who was 2 for 3.
Shields went 4 2/3 innings in the start for the Plainsmen, allowing two earned runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out one. Brad Curtis tossed 2 1/3 innings of relief, striking out two and walking one.
When the Class AA championship series resumes at 7 p.m. on Friday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, Shenendehowa will have each of its top pitchers, James Redick and Nino Salati, available.
Saratoga Springs will likely turn to Christian Mello.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mack said of the second game of the series. “I strongly believe that we’ll win Friday as long as we come out and play hard. We’ve beat them three times already this season, so I don’t see a problem with us winning a fourth.”
Saratoga Springs 010 110 0 — 3 7 2
Shenendehowa 002 000 0 — 2 3 4
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