Ryan Feeney wasn’t going to be the one who kept Niskayuna from playing in the Class AA baseball sectionals.
Knowing his team could not afford a loss if it wants to get into the postseason, the junior right-hander turned in six-plus gritty innings Monday as the Silver Warriors came from four runs back to beat Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 8-4, in a Suburban Council game. The win gets 6-8 Niskayuna halfway through its mission of winning its final four league games and finishing with a .500 league record, which would secure a spot in the postseason.
With no room for error, the Silver Warriors play at Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, and host Shaker Thursday.
“My mindset was to just get the job done, don’t let the pressure get to me,” said Feeney, who gave up eight hits, walked three and was lifted with one out in the seventh after recording his 10th strikeout. “It was a big game today, and it turned out well, so I’m happy.”
“Ryan did a great, great job,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey. “He’s a competitor. He’s an athlete, and he’s got a great combination of pitches.
“We have to win every game left to get into sectionals, and he gave us everything he had and kept us in it.”
Feeney was on the wrong side of a 4-0 game through three innings, but he refused to give up any more runs.
After Niskayuna got three runs back in the fourth, the 5-foot-8 right-hander got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts.
His teammates were sufficiently inspired that they took the lead with three runs, and tacked on two more in the seventh inning.
“He was courageous in a couple of critical situations, especially getting out of that bases-loaded spot,” said Furey, whose team got a no-hitter from Casey Marvell in the previous game after falling to 4-8.
“They looked like a team playing for their lives, and we didn’t,” said Burnt Hills coach Rob Duell, whose team has enough wins against Class AA teams to qualify for the postseason. “Give him [Feeney] credit. He hung in there, and got out of a couple of tough spots. I thought we were going to score more runs.”
Danny Maynard’s RBI double gave Burnt Hills the lead in the first inning, and the Spartans added three runs in the third on five consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly. Burnt Hills starting pitcher Danny Nuzzi had the biggest hit, a two-run single, and catcher Tom Moore delivered the run-scoring fly ball that put the hosts up, 4-0.
Niskayuna left the bases loaded in the third before scoring three runs in the fourth. Ninth-place hitter Carmen Caruso followed a walk and a single with an RBI single that sent Pat O’Brien to third. O’Brien scored when Caruso stole second base, and Moore’s throw was not handled cleanly. Feeney delivered Caruso with an RBI single.
Niskayuna took the lead when sophomore outfielder Garrett Whitley hit a bases-loaded, two-run single in the top of the sixth. When Burnt Hills misplayed the ball, Lucas Teti, who had walked to load the bases, came all the way home from first base.
Niskayuna added a pair of runs in the seventh off Ryan Gardy.
“Danny was up around 100 pitches, and no game is more important than the health of one of our players,” said Duell of the decision to take Nuzzi out after six innings of work on an unseasonably cold day.
Caruso drew a bases-loaded walk, and Feeney hit a sacrifice fly to make it 8-4 heading into the home seventh.
Feeney walked Nuzzi to open the seventh, and Ryan McDonnell singled. Furey brought in Brian Toy with one out, and Feeney issued a walk to load the bases before getting two strikeouts.
“I was tired,” said Feeney of his final inning. “But if coach wanted me to finish, I would have.”
The tightness of the game, and the importance of the win, wore on Feeney as much as his physical effort.
“It’s tough. It’s something you don’t usually experience. Most teams don’t have go through that,” Feeney said of his team’s needing to win out. “We say every day that we have the potential. We’re capable of doing whatever needs to be done.
“We’re confident, but at the same time, in the back of our minds, we know we have to win. It’s a good motivator.
“We get this one, move on and get the next one.”
Niskayuna 000 303 2 — 8 10 3
Burnt Hills 103 000 0 — 4 8 3
Feeney, Toy (7) and Spataro; Nuzzi, Gardy (7) and Moore.