The Albany Academy baseball team has dealt well with adversity this season.
The Cadets opened the season 1-3, and were the sixth seed in the Section II Class B tournament. They played the majority of the sectionals without one of their best hitters in senior third baseman Tyler Hynes.
But nothing has fazed the Cadets. And now, they are trying to do something no Albany Academy team has done since 1983 — win a Class B regional title.
For the Cadets to do that, they must take a long road trip. The Cadets (15-5) take on Section X champion Ogdensburg Free Academy at 4:30 p.m. today at St. Lawrence University in Canton.
The winner will face Section VII champion Saranac Central in the regional championship game at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Bleecker Stadium. The winner moves onto the state semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday at Conlin Field in Binghamton. The championship game will be played later that day at 4 p.m.
“We had a tough go in sectionals,” Albany Academy coach Dave Rider said. “We’ve had some tough games. We’re battle-tested. Our division in the Colonial Council was very competitive with Schalmont, Voorheesville is still going [in Class C], Fonda and Watervliet. We’ve had a very competitive schedule throughout the year.”
After Albany Academy started the season losing three of its first four games, Rider needed to find the right identity for his team. Once he did, the Cadets won 14 of their next 16.
“We lost a lot of kids from last year’s team,” Rider said. “We lost some pretty heavy hitters. It took us a while to get our own identity about the things that we do well, as opposed to the things that we did last year.
“Last year, we were more of a power team. This year, it’s more small ball — steal when you can, bunt, hit-and-run — those kinds of things. Once we started to get our identity, the kids started to believe in that philosophy. That’s when we started to turn it around.”
The right-handed hitting Hynes, who also plays hockey for the Cadets and has committed to Union College for the 2013-14 season, has been battling a left wrist injury for most of the season. He suffered a fractured bone in the first sectional game against Greenville, and that knocked him out for the rest of the tournament.
“He took a real hard cut, and missed the ball,” Rider said. “He can play with it, but it’s very painful.”
Senior shortstop Justin Brock, an All-Colonial Council first-team selection, is the Cadets’ top hitter. He led the council in hits.
Another senior, pitcher/second baseman Teddy Smallwood, is batting just under .400.
Playing for a regional title is new territory for the Cadets. Rider isn’t concerned at all about his team being nervous.
“We know nothing about the team we’re playing,” Rider said. “But our philosophy has been we’ve got to do what we have to do. We can’t worry too much about the other team.”
Section II champion Fort Ann takes on Crown Point of Section VII in the regional semifinal today at 4 p.m. at Shuttleworth Park. The winner will play Parishville-Hopkinton of Section X at Shuttleworth at 4 p.m. Tuesday.