If longtime Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips is going to get his 700th win, he’s going to have to put off an often-rumored retirement.
Mike Young allowed only four hits, and Colonial Council co-MVP Nico Church went 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles and a triple from the leadoff spot, as Voorheesville beat the Hilltoppers, 14-4, in Thursday night’s Section II Class C championship game at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. The win gave Kyle Turski’s 10th-seeded Blackbirds their second straight sectional title, and left Phillips stuck on coaching win No. 696 as the Western Athletic Conference champions came up win shy of their 10th sectional title, and first since 2011.
Young had only one shaky inning as he continually set the Fort Plain hitters back to the bench. The senior retired 15 of 16 during one stretch, the only runner getting aboard when first baseman Kyle Nichols gave Young a bad toss as he was covering the bag on a Marcus Failing grounder with one out in the fourth.
“They put up runs for me and made plays behind me. They helped me out the whole game,” said Young. “I just worked hard.”
The top-seeded Hilltopppers played more like the lower-seeded team, walking 12 and committing three errors in taking only their third loss in 22 games this season.
“We had a great season, 19-3. We only had to shake hands with the winning team three times in 22 games,” said Phillips, who, as he is wont to do at the end of every season, broached the subject of his status as head coach.
“I’m going to dearly miss these kids,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. If somebody applies for the job, I’ve got to give it up. But that’s OK. I’ve done everything I possibly can for the program.”
The Blackbirds jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when Church doubled to the right-field fence, was bunted to third and came home on Kristian Singh’s ground out.
Fort Plain answered when its leadoff hitter, catcher Zach Sweet, walked, moved to second on a bunt and scored when Chris Hanifin lined a double to right-center.
Two walks, a dropped fly ball, a wild pitch and a Church RBI single produced three runs and a 4-1 lead for Voorheesville in the second off Hanifiin, who was making his first postseason pitching start after rain delays allowed the unbeaten Failing to work the quarterfinal and semifinal games.
“The dropped fly ball hurt. If he caught it, it would have been a double play, because the runners were off,” Phillips said.
Church stressed the importance of getting off to a quick lead.
“They didn’t lose too many games this season, so we knew they were going to be a good team,” he said.
Hanifin was lifted with one out in the sixth, down by five runs, after his sixth and seventh walks loaded the bases.
Left-hander Jesse Heroth came in and walked the first two batters he faced, pushing Voorheesville’s lead to 8-1. A ninth run came across when Heroth gloved, then dropped, a pop up as he neared the third-base line.
Failing hit a two-run triple and scored on a wild pitch to get those runs back, but the Blackbirds put up five more runs in the seventh.
“I got a little tired,” admitted Young, who walked four and struck out seven. “I reared back and got a little extra at the end.”
Voorheesville got contributions from its entire lineup.
Catcher Jared Paigo didn’t have a hit, but drove in three runs with a pair of sacrifice flies and a bases-loaded walk. Young, Nichols and Singh all drove in two runs for the 17-7 Blackbirds, who will face the Section X champion Monday at 4 at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
“It feel great,” Church of repeating as sectional champions after graduation left the team with only four seniors and two junior.
Fort Ann beat Germantown, 9-0, in the Class D final played here, and has a bye into the regional finals.
Voorheesville 130 023 5 — 14 11 1
Fort Plain 100 003 0 — 4 5 3
Young and Paigo; Hanifin, Heroth (6), Douglas (7) and Sweet.