Niskayuna senior Alex Helenek got the hard stuff he was looking for, and he didn’t miss.
“It was a 3-1 count, and I knew I was going to get a fastball. I was going to take a bad pitch, and if it was a perfect pitch, I was going to swing,” Helenek said after plating three runs in his team’s 6-0 Section II Class AA first-round win over Schenectady Wednesday at Central Park. “It was perfect.”
Helenek’s deep two-run double to left was the key blow, and Casey Marvell went the distance on a seven-hitter as the Silver Warriors ended the Patriots’ bounce-back season, and earned a quarterfinal date today at Big 10 champion Christian Brothers Academy.
Aiden McGonigle singled Helenek home in the third inning, David Hoffmann launched Niskayuna’s second two-run double in the seventh, and Helenek got him across on a suicide squeeze bunt.
“You saw our Achilles’,” said Schenectady coach John Isabella. “What did they do when they had men on base? They capitalized.”
Schenectady (No. 8 seed, 9-10) had opportunities to break through early, but stranded nine on base over the first four innings and had a runner thrown out at home.
“It makes you step up. It makes you rise to the occasion,” Marvell, a junior righty, said of the Patriots’ early threats. “Sometimes, you’re not going to blow guys away, but I got outs when I had to.”
Schenectady left the bases full in the first and fourth, and stranded 11 base runners in all.
“We had a lot of base runners. Normally we score a few runs, but today wasn’t that day,” said Isabella. “Their pitcher did a good job. He also did a good job when we scrimmaged them. To throw seven innings in a sectional game, good for him.”
Cole Gozalkowski matched zeros with Marvell for two innings before Josh Callahan opened the Niskayuna third with a single. After a pair of infield forceouts and a walk to Austin Clock, Helenek crushed Gozalkowski’s offering to deep left and raced to third on a throw home. McGonigle then singled up the middle to complete a 10-pitch at-bat.
Niskayuna (No. 9 seed, 13-8) padded its lead in the seventh when Hoffmann doubled to deep left-center after a pair of walks by Pats’ reliever Kyle Mohr. Hoffmann advanced on a groundout and Helenek picked up his third RBI on his suicide squeeze.
“I wish it had been a little closer. That’s baseball,” said Isabella. “We had guys on and don’t get them in.”
Marvell gave up six singles and a double — to Nick Patierne — struck out four and walked four in his fifth victory this season. He recorded a strikeout to escape a bases loaded jam in the first, got another strikeout to end the third with two Patriots aboard, and induced a groundout with the sacks full in the fourth.
“He [Marvell] always goes after batters,” Helenek said. “He never backs down. He’s a true competitor.”
“I had a very effective fastball that had nice run to it,” said Marvell. “I made batters beat the ball into the ground.”
Marvell’s performance enabled Niskayuna to go with a fresh Clock — its 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior ace — in today’s game with CBA (No. 1, 17-3). Wednesday’s game was Marvell’s turn in the rotation.
“Both Austin and Casey have done a good job pitching. They’ve both been solid,” said Niskayuna assistant coach Mike Black. “Our pitching coach [Chris Bianchi] felt we should stay on turn, and we all agreed to attack it that way.”
“I wasn’t surprised when I was told I’d be starting,” Marvell said. “We switched back and forth in our league games. He [Clock] will get the ball against CBA, and we’re set up for a nice one-two punch.”
“He [Marvell] knew what he was throwing,” said Tyrone Cassetta, one of the six seniors who helped Schenectady make it back to the sectionals after last year’s miss. “He knew what would keep us off balance.”
Cody Shafer had two hits for Schenectady, and Helenek had a single to go with his key double.
Patierne smacked his opposite-field double to left in the second inning and Jeremy Kent, who had singled and moved up on a sacrifice bunt, attempted to score. Mitchell Brown’s throw home and Hoffmann’s catch and tag nailed Kent at the plate for one of the game’s many superb defensive plays.
Schenectady pulled off a 5-4-3 double play in the first inning and Niskayuna turned a 4-6-3 double play in the fifth. Pats’ centerfielder Gabe Viscariello made several fine running catches among his six putouts. Callahan, from his shortstop spot, dove for and knocked down a grounder up the middle that likely would have produced a Schenectady run in the first just before Marvell’s inning-ending strikeout with the bases full.
Niskayuna 003 000 3 — 6 5 1
Schenectady 000 000 0 — 0 7 1
Marvell and Hoffmann; Gozalkowski, Mohr (6) and Patierne.