The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake baseball team learned last spring how long a season can be, playing into June in winning the state Class A championship.
What the Spartans hope will be a return to that level began Monday on the short end of a 15-10 final against Suburban Council North rival Saratoga Springs.
Burnt Hills jumped out to early leads of 4-0 and 6-3, and finished with 13 base hits. But the Spartans also left enough runners on base to let the Blue Streaks come back.
“I’m not going to push the panic button,” said Burnt Hills coach Paul DeLuca, whose team played .500 ball in the regular season in 2011 (against primarily Class AA teams) before a great postseason run. “It’s a dogfight every day. You know that’s how its going to be.”
Blue Streaks third baseman Alex Chandler capped a four-hit, five-RBI day with a three-run homer in a five-run Saratoga sixth inning that put the visitors up, 11-6. Four more runs in the seventh sealed the win.
“We made some key defensive mistakes, some baserunning mistakes. It wasn’t pretty,” said
DeLuca, whose state champion team graduated 12 players. “I’ve got some young kids, first-time varsity players. But I just told them that any time we put 10 [runs] on the board, we should be pretty good.”
The season couldn’t have started better for the Spartans, as No. 2 hitter Robbie Knightes crushed a pitch from Saratoga starting pitcher Brett Merriman for a home run and Jayson Sullivan followed with a triple.
Burnt Hills couldn’t get Sullivan home, then left the bases loaded in a three-run second inning. Casey Kerr came on for Saratoga and worked effectively enough into the sixth inning to let his team work back into the game.
“He was huge. Everybody contributed today,” said Chandler, who had three singles, two producing runs, in addition to his home run. “It was a good team effort.”
Saratoga coach Dean Bailey agreed.
“A lot of players did a lot of things to help us win,” he said. “The big thing was, we found a way to come back and win.
“This league is going to be like this. No game is going to be easy.”
Kris Muller’s RBI triple was the big hit in a three-run Saratoga third. A Burnt Hills throwing error resulted in two more Blue Streak runs in the fifth, and Zach Forbes’ RBI groundout made it 6-6 in the top of the fifth.
DeLuca lifted his starter, senior Rory Little, after five innings. Saratoga scored nine runs in the final two innings. Three walks all resulted in runs in the five-run sixth. Ninth-place hitter Matt Flynn, Chandler and Logan Kurtz — who had three hits on the day — had RBI hits in a four-run seventh.
“We got a good effort from our starting pitcher. We pushed him to 85 pitches He kept us in the game,” said DeLuca. “We just walked too many. We can’t give them that many baserunners.”
Chandler was looking for a pitch he could hit hard when he came up with two on and one out in the sixth against Cody Mooney, who had walked three of the first four hitters he faced to open the inning.
“It was a fastball up, a pitch I could drive,” he said. “You always want to jump on one with runners in scoring position. Any way you can help your team, that’s what you want to do.”
Burnt Hills fought back after Saratoga’s big sixth inning, chasing Kerr during a four-run rally highlighted by Mooney’s leadoff triple, an RBI single by Knightes and a two-run double by freshman catcher Danny Maynard. Mooney came up again in the inning with two outs and the bases loaded, but his line drive was hit right at Chandler.
“It was a winnable game for us,” said DeLuca. “In the sixth inning, we had the tying and go-ahead runs on and I’m thinking, we’re coming back.”
“We expect to win every game. We’re going to go out and play hard, and get the job any way we can,” Chandler said. “[Today], everybody contributed.”
Saratoga Springs 003 215 4 — 15 13 1
BH-BL 132 001 4 — 10 13 3
Merriman, Kerr (2), Kurtz (6) and Forbes; Little, Mooney (6), McDonnell (7) and Maynard.