Niskayuna gets a base hit; Shenendehowa makes a play.
That scenario was often repeated as the Plainsmen held off the Silver Warriors in a Suburban Council baseball game Tuesday, 3-1, and took sole possession of first place in the North Division.
“We always say flush the last play and move on to the next,” first-year Shenendehowa coach Greg Christodulu said after his team completed a regular-season sweep of Niskayuna. “The tide will turn fast in this game.”
Shenendehowa recorded a double play, Chris Miller threw a runner out from right field and Aaron Kalish picked a runner off immediately after Niskayuna scored its only run. Kalish later worked out of a sixth-inning jam, Taylor Vaveruick got three infield pop-ups for the save, and Matt Buckley and Justin Yurchak supplied the biggest blows.
“If this was a basketball game, you’d say they went on their runs, and we went on our runs,” said Miller.
Miller turned in the defensive play of the game when he threw Tommy Spataro out at third base to quell a third-inning threat.
Spataro had drawn a one-out walk and Lucas Teti singled with two down, and Miller handled the ball on one bounce with his bare hand before firing.
“It was a base hit in the gap. I was ready and came in charging,” said the Clarkson-bound senior. “The ball took a weird hop. I grabbed it, and I let it go. I kind of air-mailed it, and luckily, we made the play and got out of the jam.”
“It looked like that was going to give them some life,” Chrustodulo said of Teti’s second of two singles. “That ended up being a crucial play. Another single scores two.”
Defense has been a strong suit for Shenendehowa (10-2, 13-2). Yurchak made a difficult play look easy when he snared a ball that skipped up at short and threw a runner out, and center fielder Kyle McAlonie displayed good range by flagging down seven fly balls.
“With our pitching staff, we don’t have a guy who is going to strike out 10 guys,” said Miller. “We know we have to make plays. We have to be solid every single day.”
Kalish (4-0) struck out one and walked one while allowing six hits. After Carmen Caruso led off the Niskayuna sixth with a single and Ryan Feeney hit another with one down, Kalish finished strong with a pair of flyball outs.
“Aaron threw well, and our defense was super behind him,” said Christodulu. “We like to win big, but we like to win the close ones, too. This was a character builder. So were our other games that were close.”
Teti opened the contest with a single. Feeney lined a shoulder-high shot down the first-base line that Tyler Vyce caught to begin a double play.
“Our first batter strokes one. Our second batter drives one,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey. “That’s how close we were to scoring. That was the start of it.”
Tommy Carrigan began the Niskayuna fifth with a double, took third on a sacrifice bunt and raced home on Zach Zebrowski’s single. Kalish picked off Zebrowski and then ended the inning with his lone strikeout.
McAlonie singled in the Shenendehowa first, stole second with two down, and Buckley followed with an RBI single.
“That’s why they’re our three and four hitters,” Christodulu said of Yurchak, a junior, and Buckley, a senior. “They have good mechanics. That have a good plan at the plate. They came up with two
crucial hits for us.”
Yurchak doubled to left-center to give Shenendehowa a 3-0 lead in the third. McAlonie singled with one out, and Brennan McCormack walked before Yurchak drove in his 30th and 31st runs of the season.
“We had opportunities, and they had opportunities,” said Furey. “They has 21 [Yurchak] up in a critical spot. He can stroke it.”
Shenendehowa threatened to extend its 3-1 advantage in the sixth when Matt Drum reached on an error, Vyce walked and both moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Feeney kept the score that way with a strikeout and a groundout.
“Our kid pitched a gutsy game,” said Furey.
Feeney gave up five hits, fanned three and walked six. His catcher, Spataro, made two nice catches on foul pops near the backstop and threw out a base stealer.
The loss left Niskayuna (4-8, 6-8) needing to win its final four league games to get into the Section II Class AA playoffs. The Silver Warriors have games remaining with Ballston Spa, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Saratoga Springs and Shaker.
“We’d love to be playing Shaker for a playoff spot, but there’s no easy ride in this league,” said Furey. “We’ve got to worry about the team we’re playing next.”
Shenendehowa gained first place in the North Division when Ballston Spa pinned a 10-1 setback on Shaker (9-3, 10-4).
Niskayuna 000 010 0 — 1 7 1
Shenendehowa 102 000 x — 3 5 0
Feeney and Spataro; Kalish, Vaveruick (7) and Guinta.