By the end of the fourth inning of Sunday night’s 14U Middle Atlantic Regional, the only number on the scoreboard that held any interest was the zero in the hit column of the visitors.
With Michael Jeffers routinely setting down Kingston hitters, his Clifton Park Knights teammates had taken a 7-0 lead.
Jeffers would not get his no-hitter, as Kingston center fielder Dan Boyle lined a clean single up the middle leading off the fifth inning. But that was the only thing that didn’t go the host team’s way, as that score held up, putting the Knights, now 5-0 in the tournament, into tonight’s 7 p.m. final against North Colonie.
“Michael did a great job. He didn’t have great command of the offspeed stuff, but he threw hard and he threw strikes,” said Clifton Park coach Tom Huerter. “And the defense played well behind him.”
“I just go out and throw strikes and trust my defense,” said Jeffers, who ended up giving up two hits, two walks and struck out eight in six innings.
“The defense made some good plays behind me. We’ve been together for a while, so they know what I’m going to throw and how to position themselves.”
“He was getting ahead of guys, throwing his fastball for strikes,” said catcher Ben Anderson.
“We played three games against them this season,” Jeffers said. “The first game, I pitched and didn’t give up any runs. So, I think coach had confidence in me.
“When we’re playing at home and the fans are behind us, it gets my adrenaline going.”
Clifton Park took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, when Anderson’s bases-loaded roller left Kingston shortstop Brandon Bonesteel with one option. His throw to second was late and wide, with Michael Spulnick and Jeffers both scoring on the play.
Clifton Park sent 10 hitters to the plate in a five-run fourth that was aided by wild pitches and a balk by Kingston pitcher Kevin Bryant.
Huerter pointed out that the Knights have given up only two runs in the tournament.
“The way our defense has been playing, the defense and pitching have been complementing each other,” he said.
“We’ve given up two runs in five games. That’s still the strength of this team.”
“When they were 12, they’d hit two or three home runs a game. At this level, you’re not going to do that. Not on this size field. It’s real baseball, without the home runs.”
“We work really hard on our defense,” said Anderson, whose twin brother, Ian, is scheduled to get the pitching start tonight. “We spend a lot of time on it.”
As for offense, the Knights make the most of their chances.
“They put the bat on the ball, and continue to figure out a way to score runs,” said Huerter, who put several base runners in motion in the fourth inning.
“If we can put pressure on the other team’s defense, we like our chances,” Huerter said. “If we continue to put the ball in play, we’ll roll the dice with that.”
“We had a meeting at the beginning of the year, and this was our goal,” Anderson said. “We knew we were hosting the regional, and we didn’t want anybody to come in here and knock us off.”
North Colonie, the Eastern New York champion, also got to 5-0 by holding off Metro New York champion Next Millennium, 6-5, in the other semi.
Kingston 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Clifton Park Knights 200 500 x — 7 6 1
Bryant and Albertston; Jeffers, Cady (7) and B. Anderson.
BH still alive
BRISTOL, Conn. — Derek Haughey drove in Alex Hromada in the sixth inning as Burnt Hills beat East Greenwich, N.J., 5-4, in the 12-year-old Mid-Atlantic regional.
Haughey hit a sacrifice fly to score Hromada in the first inning, and Glenn Ramos hit a two-run double, then scored on a wild pitch in the second as Burnt Hills took a 4-2 lead.
Burnt Hills loaded the bases but did not score in the fifth, and East Greenwich tied the game in its half of the inning.
Burnt Hills, 1-1, plays Delaware today at 5.
Burnt Hills 130 001 — 5 8 1
East Greenwich 200 020 — 4 10 0
Wyatt, Valley (5) and Haughey; Szestowich, Ritchie (2), Mackeley (4), Crawford (6) and Gill.
NISKAYUNA IN FINAL
NISKAYUNA — Matt Toy’s
suicide squeeze bunt scored the winning run as host Niskayuna beat Bayonne, N.J., 6-5, in the semifinals of the 13-year-old Middle Atlantic Regional.
Niskayuna, 4-1 in the tournament, will play South Colonie in today’s noon championship game. South Colonie beat West End, Pa., in the other semifinal.