Fort Plain pitcher Dustin Baker said he wasn’t at his best going to home plate, but his move to first base was never better.
Baker picked off four Duanesburg runners and scattered five hits in a 3-2 Section II Class C championship-game win over the Eagles Thursday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
Brad Bowers hit a run-scoring single in the home sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie, and Baker finished off the Hilltoppers’ seventh sectional banner — and third in a row — in the next inning with his final spin and quick toss to nail Chris Hyrny at first base.
“I didn’t have my greatest stuff. I didn’t have that pop on the ball,” Baker, a senior right-hander, said after running his record to 10-0. “I tried to find ways to get batters out.”
Baker also picked off Hyrny in the fifth, and quelled a potential big first inning with successful throws to first baseman Jim Thomas, nailing Will McMullen and Wes Coppolo
after the Duanesburg stars had connected for back-to-back singles.
“The key thing is, we made so many judgement mistakes at first base,” said Duanesburg coach Chris Wyanski. “We jumped the gun and got caught too many times. That took us out of the game . . . It happens.”
Bowers made things happen in the fourth with a diving grab in right field, and in the sixth with his bases-loaded, run-scoring single off Ben Brand, the second of three Duanesburg pitchers. That blow capped a comeback from a 2-0 deficit, with Tyler Barhydt hitting an RBI single in the third and Erik Kuntzsch stroking an RBI double in the inning before that.
“We got down the last two games, and battled back,” said Baker. “Every team we’ve played has been tough, but we don’t give up.”
Baker walked Nick Ferri and Ben Lynch to open the second inning, and Richie Kennedy smacked an opposite-field, two-run double to right. An infield error and a two-out walk loaded the bases, and Baker escaped further damage with a strikeout and a force at second base.
Baker gave up only a two-out, sixth-inning single to Kennedy and a two-out, seventh-inning single to Hyrny before picking him off to seal the victory, and keep the Hilltoppers’ hopes alive for a second consecutive state championship.
“All season, it’s been a big part of my pitching success,” Baker said. “It’s been a big positive, a big help.”
“I don’t know if he got that last one, but we’ll take it,” said Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips.
Baker walked three and struck out seven to boost his season total to 101 K’s. The senior authored a no-hitter in the Hilltoppers’ (No. 1 seed, 23-3) quarterfinal shutout of postseason rival Salem, before coming through again in Thursday’s matchup between the two Western Athletic Conference division champions.
“That’s why he’s an all-state selection,” Phillips said of his mound ace. “He’s the heart and soul of this team. He’s 5-foot-5, and he’s got a heart as big as Joe Bruno Stadium.”
“He settled in nicely,” Wyanski said. “We had some opportunities, but they came with two outs. There were some situations and we couldn’t get it done”
Bowers got it done after flying out in the fourth inning with runners on second and third. In the second inning, the senior grounded out, leaving Kuntzsch stranded at second base.
“He [Brand] is a pretty good pitcher, and I struggled against him in the last game. I went 0-for-3,” said Bowers, referring to Fort Plain’s 3-1 loss to the Eagles earlier this spring. “The guys put me in a good position, and I was able to come through.”
Thomas reached on an error to start the Fort Plain sixth and Mark Hanifin doubled him to third.
After Kuntzsch was intentionally walked to load the bases, Bowers hit Brand’s first offering on a line over second base and into right field.
“I said to [Bowers], ‘Sometime in the count, you’re going to get the squeeze sign,’ and he says to me, ‘Coach, you know how I bunt,’ ” Phillips said afterward. “I said then you better get a hit early in the count.”
A leadoff double by Thomas and a two-out double by Kuntzsch got Fort Plain on the board in the bottom the second. Baker singled and stole a base with two down in the third, and Barhydt tied the contest with his RBI single.
“This never gets old,” said Phillips, after his 595th career victory, and 50th win spanning 2007-08. “I still love this.”
Duanesburg (No. 3, 20-5), which beat Warrensburg and Waterford-Halfmoon to get to Thursday’s game, was denied its first sectional title since 1995.
Shawn Delancey hit a sacrifice fly to cap a two-run seventh as Corinth rallied to beat Adirondack League rival Lake George, 5-4, and claim its first sectional championship in 34 years.
Corinth (No. 3, 18-7) let a 3-0 lead get away before coming back, with Delancey’s outfield drive to right coming off Mike Tirri, who had hurled a no-hitter in the Warriors’ previous game.
“I just wanted to put it in play,” said Delancey, a junior first baseman. “We had one out and [Justin] Millington on third, and he has a lot of speed. I just wanted to get it in the outfield.”
A two-out error allowed Lake George (No. 1, 20-5) to score two runs and tie the game at 3-3 in the sixth, and Peter Gaibrois’ RBI single pushed the Warriors ahead.
“A few things happened and we let it get way, but I felt confident going into the seventh because we had our top four guys coming up,” said Corinth coach Tom Rentz. “I knew we were going to hit. It’s kind of the way we’ve been all year.”
Tyler Kirchoff and Millington singled off Gaibrois to start Corinth’s seventh. Kirchoff scored when rightfielder Ryan Lynch overthrew third base, and Millington raced to third on the play. After Tirri came on and recorded a strikeout, Delancey hit his sacrifice fly.
Lake George loaded the bases in the home seventh on two walks and an error. Sam Miller, who had relieved C.J. Saunders after the first walk, got Lynch to foul out and end it.
“We lost to Lake George twice convincingly, so this is quite a bit of redemption for us,” said Rentz. “This means a lot, that they left their mark. Our boys didn’t win the league this year, but they left their mark.”
“We were talking about this back in March,” said Delancey, who hit an RBI single in the first. “We knew if we played our game, if we did the best we could, we could do it.”
Corinth and Fort Plain will meet in the Class CC-C playoff Saturday at noon at Bruno Stadium, with the Class B, A and AA finals to follow.
FORT PLAIN 3, DUANESBURG 2
Duanesburg 020 000 0 — 2 5 3
Fort Plain 011 001 x — 3 8 3
Ferri, Brand (4), McMullen (6) and Kennedy; Baker and Hudyncia.
CORINTH 5, LAKE GEORGE 4
Corinth 102 000 2 — 5 11 5
Lake George 000 103 0 — 4 5 2
Saunders, Miller(7) and Elliott; Gaibrois, Tirri (7) and Nelson.