It came down to taking advantage of the opportunities in Friday’s Section II Class AA baseball game between Niskayuna and Schenectady.
The Silver Warriors made the most of their chances, while the Patriots missed out, and that’s why Niskayuna will be heading to the semifinals at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium tonight.
Niskayuna jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings against Patriots pitcher Jordan Bernacet, and then sealed the deal with a four-run seventh to defeat Schenectady, 7-0, at Central Park “C” Diamond.
“It made the difference in the game,” said Niskayuna pitcher Ryan Feeney, who allowed four hits in six innings of work. “When you’re pitching with a lead, it makes it a lot easier. You can’t win without scoring runs.”
The fifth-seeded Silver Warriors (12-6), who missed out playing in last year’s tournament, will take on Shenendehowa at 7 p.m.
The game started with the Silver Warriors’ leadoff hitter, Pat O’Brien, reaching base on an error. Feeney followed with a perfectly placed bunt single between the mound and first base. After Feeney was forced out at second on Garrett Whitley’s fielder’s choice, Mike Landry and Carmen Caruso each delivered RBI singles.
Feeney figured in the Silver Warriors’ second-inning run. He reached base on a two-out fielding error. Whitley followed with an RBI double.
“We got off to a nice start against that pitcher,” Niskayuna coach John Furey said. “That’s what we really wanted to do.”
Meanwhile, the fourth-seeded Patriots (13-7) had chances to score in the first and third innings, but came up empty.
In the first, Schenectady had runners on second and third with one out. Feeney got out of it by getting Brandon Gwinner to hit a comebacker to the mound, which kept Zach Schellenger anchored at third base. Then, Feeney struck out Nick Schmid.
The key play came in the third inning. The Patriots had Schellenger, who singled, at third, and Guisseppe Carberg, who walked, at first with one out. Feeney struck out Gwinner for the second out.
With Schmid batting, Carberg broke for second. Catcher Tommy Spataro pump-faked a throw to second, and then saw Schellenger started down the third-base line. Spataro threw down to third, but his throw bounced. Third baseman Mike Gabriele caught the ball on the bounce, and threw home. Spataro just got a piece of Schellenger as he tried to slide around the tag at the plate for the final out of the inning.
“I saw him, and I wanted him,” Spataro said. “I held the ball too long. Mike Gabriele made a nice play. It was a momentum-killer.”
For the Patriots, that play summed up the difficulties they had against the Silver Warriors. Schenectady coach John Isabella didn’t think his team was nervous.
“This was, by far, the worst game we played all season, error-wise, mental and physical,” Isabella said. “But they took advantage of everything we gave them.”
The Silver Warriors sent nine batters to the plate in the seventh. Whitley reached base on a one-out error. Landry followed with a single, and Caruso was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
With the infield in, Spataro lined a two-run single just over the glove of third baseman Carberg.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive,” Spataro said. “The at-bat before, I hit a shot to second. I was just trying to jump on a pitch and drive in a couple of runs.”
Joe Apkarian and Taylor Parks each hit RBI singles to make it a seven-run lead for the Silver Warriors.
“That was huge,” Furey said. “I went down to our assistant coaches and went, ‘Wooh.’ I thought that, at any time, they could pop out and get some runs very easily. I was glad to see us pile up those runs in that inning.”
Niskayuna 210 000 4 — 7 10 0
Schenectady 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
Feeney, Toy (7) and Spataro; Bernacet and Schellenger.