Ted Smallwood pitched three perfect innings to start Albany Academy’s state Class B semifinal game against Briarcliff and hurled another at the end. Ian Bennett launched a two-run homer, and Justin Brock hit a sacrifice fly and threw a runner out at home.
“We had spurts of greatness. We also had spurts with mental lapses,” Bennett said after the Cadets’ 4-3 loss Saturday at Conlon Field in MacArthur Park. “Any other day, we would have had them.”
Albany Academy picked a bad day to play an uneven brand of baseball as its six-game postseason winning streak was halted and its finest season came to a close.
The Bears erased a 1-0 deficit by bunching four runs in the fourth and fifth innings, a stretch that included three errors by the Cadets. Albany Academy also had a runner erased on a heads-up throw by winning pitcher Spencer Kulman.
“You’re on a big stage. You’re talking about kids,” said Albany Academy coach Dave Rider. “The margin for error is so slim.”
The complexion of the game changed after Darien White injured his shoulder on a head-first slide into third base in the bottom of the third inning. The game was delayed a half-hour before the junior was stretchered off.
“We were rolling along very well. The pace was the way we like it,” said Rider. “The long delay gave them an opportunity to regroup.”
Brock’s sacrifice fly after play resumed brought home Austin Teal with the game’s first run, and Briarcliff answered quicky with a three-run fourth and a another run in the fifth. Bennett got two back with his long homer in the sixth over the left-field fence, which followed Mike Eglow’s single.
“We had it on our board. Four games for sectionals. Four games for states,” said Bennett, a junior first baseman. “I tried to do something to get us there.”
Albany Academy mounted a mini threat in the seventh when Nick Gavin struck out on a pitch in the dirt and reached first on a one-out throwing error. Kulman got a forceout and a popout to finish off the Bears’ second semifinal win in as many years.
“This was the best season for our school as far as hardware,” said Smallwood, who got the win when the Cadets beat Catskill for their first sectional title since 1983. “It’s tough to fall short, but we’ll remamber this for a lifetime.”
As the No. 6 Section II seed, Albany Academy (17-6) beat Greenville, Chatham and Fonda-Fultonville before topping Catskill, and captured its first regional crown with victories over Ogdensburg Free Academy and Saranac.
“It was an amazing ride,” said Bennett. “We kept surprising people.”
Kulman caught Ben Brown by surprise when he fielded Teal’s tapper in the fifth and tagged him out, and then fired quickly to third base, where John Fussell applied a tag for the second out.
Brown had led off the inning with a single, took second on a wild pitch. and reached third safely before drifting off the bag. He would have scored on Smallwood’s single that followed.
“That was a big momentum swing. I got fired up. My team got fired up,” Kulman, a junior righty, said after gaining his ninth win. “I looked at third and saw he was a little off the base. Good thing Johnny was paying attention.”
“That was big, but there were a couple of plays before that,” said Rider. “You can’t pin the whole game on that play at third.”
The Briarcliff fourth started with a walk, a bunt single by Jackson Plimpton and a passed ball. Colin Orr hit a run-scoring groundout, Fussell hit a run-scoring single, and after stealing second and taking third on an off-line pickoff throw, he scored on Paul Henshaw’s sacrifice fly.
“We played well enough to win,” said Smallwood, one of the Cadets’ seven seniors, before adding, “It wasn’t completely working for us.”
Ryan Huegel reached on Bennett’s two-out infield error in the fifth, stole second, and scored sliding in when Plimpton singled.
Kulman gave up seven hits with a strikeout and a walk. Smallwood allowed six hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Briarcliff (Section I, 23-5) finished second in the state for the second year in a row after a 2-0 loss to Oneonta (Section IV, 24-2) later Saturday.
Haldane spoiled Voorheesville’s state semifinal debut with a 6-0 Class C win at Johnson City High School, and Coleman Catholic scored a run in the last of the seventh to edge Fort Ann, 2-1, in Class D play at Broome Community College.
Haldane recorded its third consecutive state tourney shutout as Dan Kinnaird spun a six-hitter with seven strikeouts. Voorheesville (19-5) only had one runner advance past second base after piling up 20 hits in a 19-0 regional win over Ticonderoga.
Lansing (Section IV, 26-0) completed a perfect season with a 5-3 title-game win over Haldane (Section I, 20-4) Saturday evening.
Fort Ann ace Robert Sprague retired 18 straight batters before Jim Lavelle doubled with two down in the seventh. Sprague nailed Austin Coons with a pitch and Doug Terrone followed with an RBI single as the Cardinals’ (21-4) hopes for a second state title in three years were dashed. Sprague, the winner in Fort Ann’s 2010 state final, finished his varsity career with a 33-2 record.
Coleman Catholic (Section IX) completed a 10-10 season after winning the small-school state title later Saturday, 2-0, over Oriskany (Section III, 19-6).
Briarcliff 000 310 0 — 4 6 2
Albany Academy 001 002 0 — 3 7 3
Kulman and Orr; Smallwood and Dempsey.