Those “Unfinished Business” T-shirts that the Waterford-Halfmoon players were wearing under their jerseys Tuesday don’t seem so corny now.
Behind a five-hitter by senior Wade Daus and an outstanding defense, the top-seeded Fordians advanced to the Section II Class C championship game with a 5-0 victory over Canajoharie at Clifton Common.
The Fordians (19-4) will take on four-time defending champion Fort Plain in the championship game on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Joseph L.
Bruno Stadium, as the second-seeded Hilltoppers put together a very efficient 8-2 win over Greenwich in the first game of Tuesday’s double-header.
“Last year, we lost here and left 13 guys on base,” said Waterford coach Bob Jesmain of the Fordians’ 6-4 loss to Duanesburg in the 2008 semifinals. “That left a sour taste in our mouth, and the kids came in ready to play tonight.”
No one was more prepared than Daus, who got rocked by Canajoharie in the semifinals of the Rich Bower Tournament on May 24 at Fort Plain.
“I’ll tell you what, they saw him in the Fort Plain tournament, but Wade was hurting a little bit,” said Jesmain. “We rested him up, and got him ready.”
Daus, a right-hander who relies on location more than power, struck out eight and twice saw his defense bail him out of jams.
“My fastball is probably in the 70s, tops,” said Daus. “I rely on
location and my change-up. I think a change-up is the most effective pitch in high school because everyone expects fastballs and curves. If you’re throwing change-ups, even a 70 mile-per-hour fastball will keep hitters off-balance.”
The Fordians gave Daus all the run support he needed in the second, when they scored two runs on only one hit.
Jeff Yattaw singled, stole second and went to third on a long fly ball by Zach Gardner, who just missed a home run a couple of pitches earlier when his drive into the parking lot curved just to the right of the foul pole.
Kyle Brisson followed with a ground ball to Canajoharie shortstop Zach Weaver, who looked Yattaw back to third, but then made an errant throw to first, allowing Yattaw to score.
Brisson later scored on a groundout to give the Fordians a 2-0 lead.
Canajoharie threatened in the top of the third when Jake Tamsett, the No. 9 hitter, doubled over the bag at third and Zach Fliescher followed with a sharp single to left. Canajoharie coach Brent Watterson sent Tamsett home, but Brisson made a perfect throw on the fly to catcher Joe Harder, who had plenty of time to put the tag on Tamsett.
“Brisson throwing that guy out was huge for momentum,” said Jesmain.
The Fordians tacked on two more runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Larry Rondeau and Ryan Hardy, and closed out the scoring in the sixth when Gardner tripled to right, on a ball that Canajoharie outfielder Anthony Taylor lost in the lights, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brisson.
“Our defense is what did it,” said Jesmain. “[Ray] Carmel made two bigs plays at third, there was the ball up the middle, and Brisson’s throw. I’ve got nine seniors who aren’t ready to pack it in yet.”
In the first game, junior Mark Hanifin threw a two-hitter with seven strikeouts for Fort Plain
(23-3) and the Hilltoppers played small ball, banging out 10 singles in their 11-hit attack.
“I didn’t realize this until my assistant told me, but this will be our seventh championship game in seven years,” said Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips.
The only bad pitch Hanifin threw all night was deposited over the left-field fence by Greenwich right fielder Chad Niles in the fourth inning, after Fort Plain had opened up a 5-1 lead.
“He was outstanding,” said Phillips of Hanifin. “He hung a curve ball there, but that kid is such a competitor. There were no nerves out of him last night when I told him he was going to go today. He just said, ‘I want the ball.’ ”
Fort Plain jumped on Greenwich starter Jared Kirk quickly, scoring two runs in the first inning on four singles — three on ground balls and one that barely reached the outfield grass.
After giving up another run in the second, Kirk only faced three batters in the third, leaving before recording an out as the Hilltoppers increased their lead to 5-1.
Fort Plain iced the win with a three-run sixth, with the final two runs scoring in typical Phillips fashion, on squeeze bunts by Ryan Kane and Bo Baker.
“Hey, we didn’t drive the ball all over the lot, but we got the bunts down in critical situations,” said Phillips. “The key was not letting the 2-2 and 3-2 counts beat us. We had to keep fouling pitches off and getting the ball into play.”
Tyler Barhydt had Fort Plain’s only extra-base hit, a double in the third inning. Bo Baker had two hits and two RBI, and Barhydt, Hanifin, Brent Baker and Evan Yacowenia all had two hits.
Canajoharie 000 000 0 — 0 5 2
Water.-Halfmoon 020 201 x — 5 5 1
O’Neil and Fliescher; Daus and Harder.
FORT PLAIN 8, GREENWICH 2
Greenwich 001 100 0 — 2 2 0
Fort Plain 212 003 x — 8 11 2
Kirk, Fryer (3) and Giroux; Hanifin and Bo. Baker.