One of the beautiful things about baseball is that it often gives a player a chance to redeem himself.
Fonda-Fultonville senior Albert Fiorenza took full advantage of his opportunity in a Section II Class B quarterfinal game Thursday at Schalmont.
After making a costly error and stranding two teammates in a big spot, the clean-up batter ripped a two-out, two-run triple in the top of the seventh inning to lift the Braves and Kody Shaw to a 3-1 win over the Colonial Council Patriot Division champions.
“There was no way I was going to get out in that last at-bat,” said Fiorenza, who sent Greg Musk’s full-count offering into center field. “I was sitting fastball, and he threw a fastball. If he threw a curve, I would have had to react.”
Fiorenza’s clutch blow and a perfect seventh by Shaw, which included his 11th strikeout, capped the first win for Fonda-Fultonville (No. 7 seed, 14-8) over Schalmont (No. 2, 15-5) in three games this spring.
“Once the seeding came out and we got a look at the bracket, I knew what we were up against,” said Schalmont coach Bob Anderson. “We beat them in two close games, and it’s tough to beat a good team three times.”
Shaw lofted a sacrifice fly for the Braves’ first run in the third inning, and the one he allowed in the home half was unearned. The senior righty gave up four hits and walked six to go with his double-digit strikeouts, and he also hit a batter.
“Kody pitched a very gritty game. I think he had too much rest, and he was a little rusty,” Fonda-Fultonville coach Rick Palumbo said of his ace, who no-hit Ravena earlier in the season. “He had a lot more command of his curve than his fastball, and it’s usually the other way around.”
Shaw and the Braves dodged a bullet in the fifth when Nick Pascarella tried to stretch a lead-off double to the right-center gap into a triple, and got nailed on a Charles Parslow to Alex Kocjan to Fiorenza relay combination. Kocjan’s perfect throw to third base came from short center field.
“That was one of the biggest plays in the game,” said Shaw. “If they get a guy on third with no outs, it would have been hard to get out of it.”
“The relay play to get that guy was huge,” said Palumbo. “There were a lot of big plays.”
Fiorenza had a chance to break the tie in the top of the fifth, but grounded into an inning-ending forceout after the Braves used a single and a walk to set up a threat. Fiorenza also misplayed catcher Wally Kowalski’s throw on a two-out double steal in the third that allowed Tyler Demers to race home with Schalmont’s run.
“I cost us a run. It was a good throw. It was all on me,” said Fiorenza. “I wanted to make up for it.”
The senior did so in the seventh after Jarett Ladd opened with a single, Parslow hit a one-out single, and both moved up on Shaw’s groundout. Fiorenza lined a Musk delivery into center and Tom Urbanski dove for the ball, which skipped past his glove and kept rolling.
“Albert has been getting big hits like that all year,” said Palumbo.
“We had first base open,” said Anderson. “He [Musk] tried to nibble outside and got too much of the plate, and their kid jumped on it.”
Musk gave up only two singles before the seventh and finished with seven strikeouts, five walks and two hit batsmen. Both of those came in the third — sandwiched around a walk — when Shaw
delivered his sacrifice fly.
“Musk pitched a fantastic game,” Anderson said of his sophomore lefty. “He got into some jams and battled his way out.”
Shaw escaped two early threats. He recorded a strikeout to end the first after Schalmont landed runners on second and third with a single, a walk and a double steal. The Sabres filled the bases in the second on a hit batter and two walks, but failed to score when Pascarella’s two-out infielder grounder struck Musk as he ran to second.
“We left five on in the first two innings, and that was a killer,” said Anderson. “We just didn’t get the big hit when we needed it, and they obviously did in the seventh.”
Shaw got out of the fifth on three pitches. After Pascarella was thrown out, Shaw retired eight of the last nine batters he faced.
“I was going deep in counts with some of their batters,” said Shaw. “I got the three-pitch inning and a quick one after that, and that helped out. If definitely gave me a breather.”
Fonda-Fultonville beat Taconic Hills Wednesday, 11-0, and will take on its second straight Colonial Council foe Saturday in Albany Academy (No. 6, 13-5) at Bleecker Stadium.
“We were determined not to just get through one game,” said Shaw. “We’re in it to win it.”
Fonda-Fultonville 001 000 2 — 3 5 1
Schalmont 001 000 0 — 1 4 1
K. Shaw and Kowalski; Musk and Cote.