Losing seven quality starters from a sectional championship team usually leads to a rebuilding season.
Not at Saratoga Central Catholic.
The Saints combined a potent lineup and a three-hitter from freshman Jake Moline to beat Berne-Knox-Westerlo, 15-3, Wednesday. Saratoga Catholic’s 10th league win in 11 Western Athletic Conference games put the Saints into the WAC tournament championship against Schoharie.
That game will be played Friday or Saturday at a neutral site.
The Indians beat the top seed from the WAC South after falling behind by three runs early.
Moline, in his second varsity start, showed great poise for a ninth-grader after BKW scored three unearned runs in its first at-bat.
“I just kept throwing strikes,” said Moline, who retired 19 of the final 22 batters he faced, walking two and allowing a one-out hit in the seventh. “At this level, I understand that the fielders are going to make plays. So I wanted to throw strikes. If the ball got hit, I knew they were going to make the plays.”
Moline’s teammates helped by scoring four runs in their half of the first, and broke the game open with a seven-run fourth.
“He’s a great talent. He’s going to be a great pitcher,” said Spa Catholic junior first baseman Cameron Coons, who went 3-for-3 and drove in three runs “He didn’t get rattled. He blew it off. You know you’ve got guys who you know are going to make plays behind you.”
Senior shortstop Casey Cohan was also impressed with Moline.
“He’s a great talent, and he’s got three more years on varsity,” Cohan said. “He’s going to be a good one.”
Saints coach Phonsey Lambert didn’t let Moline know he was starting until late in the school day.
“I didn’t want to tell him, because the last time I told him, and he got a little nervous,” Lambert said. “So, today, I told him in eighth period.
“I said, ‘Jake, you’re pitching today in the first round of the WAC tournament.’ His jaw dropped a little bit, but I could see in his eyes that he’d be ready. He’s a gamer.”
Moline retired 12 in a row at one point, getting the final two hitters in the third, retiring the side in order the next three innings and getting the leadoff hitter in the seventh.
“It gave us a lift, because it gave the other pitchers a break,” said Lambert.
The team’s hitters have also done their share of lifting this season, as the Saints look to repeat as Class B champs and go deep into the state tournament.
Seven of the nine starters had a hit. Junior Jesse Winters also had a three-hit game, and freshman catcher Ryan Czarnecki drove in two runs.
“We’re not anywhere yet,” cautioned Cohan, who drove in a pair of runs. “I think we’re where we thought we could be. We’ve just got to stay focused, practice hard and play hard.”
The blend of returning players moving into starting positions and first-year varsity players has worked.
“We’ve had some great performances from our young players this year. These kids have really contributed,” Lambert said.
Berne-Knox-Westerlo 300 000 0 — 3 3 4
Saratoga Catholic 417 012 x — 15 14 1
Geist, Gibbs (4) and O’Connor; Moline and Czarnecki.