Patience at the plate and plenty of talented arms on the mound helped Niskayuna earn a trip to the Babe Ruth World Series Monday.
Niskayuna rallied past tournament host South Colonie, 16-6, to win the 13-15 year-old Mid-Atlantic Regional at Cook Park.
The Babe Ruth World Series will be held Aug. 18-25 in Van Buren, Ark.
“This feels great,” said Niskayuna coach Chris Bianchi, after his team stormed back from a 5-1 deficit. “It’s very rewarding to see the kids so happy and so excited after what they’ve accomplished. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the Babe Ruth World
South Colonie jumped out to a 5-1 lead, thanks to a grand slam by Nick Donato in the second inning.
But resilient Niskayuna had been in this situation before, according to Bianchi.
“We had been down to Piedmont, Del, earlier in the tournament, and we ended up getting a homer from Garret Whitley to win that game in the seventh inning,” Bianchi said. “We had the same score today, and I told our kids about that. They responded.”
Niskayuna not only got an outstanding pitching performance from Tom Favata, who came on in relief to shut the door with five strikeouts over the final four innings, but the winners also collected nine hits and 15 walks.
Tyler Hanft drove in four runs with a pair of hits, Patrick O’Brien had two hits and two RBI, Whitley drove in two runs with two hits, and Ryan Feeney also had two hits and a pair of RBI.
“Our hitters have a tremendous approach to hitting,” said Bianchi. “They look for a specific pitch in a specific spot. If it’s not there, they’ll let it pass. They are not afraid to hit with two strikes and when they get behind in the count. We had a lot of two-strike counts today, but we also had a lot of walks. Throughout the year, we put a tremendous amount of baserunners on because of our discipline.”
Bianchi said his team, which is 32-6 overall and 6-0 in regional play, is just as talented on defense.
“Our pitching and defense have been superb,” he said. “We made less than 10 errors the whole tournament. We also don’t walk people. We had a complete-game shutout in the semifinal, when Feeney had no walks and struck out eight in a 9-0 victory over Media, Pa.
“And the big thing is our pitching depth. We had six games in five days. We picked up two additional starters who can really pitch. I think the depth in our pitching staff set us apart from the rest of the teams in the regional. Other teams were bringing guys back after one day or no days rest. My pitcher in the semifinal hadn’t started a game yet in the tournament, and my final-game pitcher had three days rest. Depth in pitching is a luxury that many teams don’t have at this level.”
Feeney, Favato and Mike Gabriel, who led the team in victories during the postseason, are the main starting pitchers for Niskayuna. Chris Wilk and Adam Gleason each won a game in pool play.
Sean Connors and Brian Poy are the team’s top relief pitchers.
Tom Spataro is the team’s catcher. O’Brien and Gabriel flip between first and third, while Taylor Parks and Mike VanHusen have played the middle infield positions the entire tournament.
Whitley is the center fielder, and is flanked by Feeney in left and Kyle Peck or Hanft in right.
“We’ve been together with the same group of guys for a few years now, and we’ve played a ton of regionals,” said Hanft. “We didn’t really get that down when we were behind, 5-1, even though when someone hits a grand slam against you, it does kind of deflate you. But the key was to tack on a lot more runs at the end.
“It’s all kind of surreal for us. It hasn’t soaked in yet. Until we step on the field at the World Series, we won’t really believe it. It feels awesome, especially since we got through about five elimination games throughout the tournament.”
South Colonie, which posted a 5-1 regional record, advanced to the championship game with a 12-11 victory over North Syracuse on Sunday. Both South Colonie and Niskayuna won their pool brackets.
Niskayuna is in need of sponsorship help for its trip to Arkansas. Anyone willing to help should contact league president Tom Spataro at 421-1770.
AMSTERDAM — Mark Leiter Jr. tossed a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts to lead the Amsterdam Mohawks over the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs, 4-2, to win their best-of-three playoff series, 2-1.
The Mohawks advance to the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championships for the fourth straight season. They host the Glens Falls Golden Eagles in the best-of-three series beginning tonight at Shuffleworth Park.
The Mohawks scored three runs in the first inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Jeff Limbaugh and RBI singles by D.J. Hoagboon and Brian Ruby. Zak Colby added an insurance run in the eighth when he scored on a wild pitch.
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Buratt, Harrell (8), Casper (8) and Scott; Leiter and Hoagboon.
FARMINGTON, N.M. — Robbie Knightes, who will be a senior at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School this fall, drove in the winning run with a single in the eighth inning to help the Bayside Yankees win the opening game of the Connie Mack World Series, 2-1, over the Strikezone Cardinals before a crowd of 10,000 at Ricketts Park.
“With two strikes, I just tried to put the ball in play hard and find a hole,” said Knightes, who has given a verbal commitment to attend St. John’s University next year.