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Scotties need eight innings, but outslug Spartans 9-8

Scotties need eight innings, but outslug Spartans 9-8

Two-run blasts by Checca in the seventh and Gold in the eighth push Ballston Spa into Class A semifinals
Scotties need eight innings, but outslug Spartans 9-8
Luke Gold, center, celebrates with his Ballston Spa teammates after hitting the first of his two home runs against Burnt Hills.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

BALLSTON SPA -- There's no truth to the notion that Vince McMahon orchestrated the baseball game between Ballston Spa and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Saturday afternoon.

It just seemed that way.

With names like Luke Gold, Chance Checca and Jake Manderson in the lineup, the Scotties almost sound like a pro wrestling show, and on their home field, they performed like one, trading haymakers with the Spartans all day before a furious flurry of counterpunches in the grand finale left Ballston Spa standing with a 9-8 extra-inning victory in the Section II Class A quarterfinals.

After wins, Scotties head coach -- and pro wrestling fan -- Curtis Nobles awards a gaudy world heavyweight championship belt with a big bejeweled "W" in front to the player who delivers the decisive blow.

In this case, Checca left the field with The Belt, after having tied it at 7-7 by belting a two-run home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh. But it was Gold's two-run shot to centerfield with one out in the bottom of the eighth -- after Burnt Hills had raked out a go-ahead run without a basehit in the top half -- that won it. 

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"We're always in any game," Gold said. "We've been in spots like this before, down, in the early innings. We've just got to fight our way back, and then it's maybe one or two swings that just propel us forward."

"We stayed with it and stayed with it and took punch after punch, and then we actually came out in the end," Nobles said. "We've been getting everybody's best all year. It's just that now it's amplified because it's the playoffs. And they understand now, it's pitch by pitch. It's no longer inning by inning or game by game, and that's what it came down to today."

"It was an unbelievable baseball game, one of the best I've ever been involved in," Burnt Hills head coach Rob Duell said. "There's nothing that I can say to them at this point that makes this any better. When you work hard and buy in and come together as a group ... they're devastated. That's just how sports are."

The Scotties (14-2), top-seeded in the section for Class A and No. 2 in the state, will play No. 4 seed Queensbury at 7 p.m. Wednesday at The College of Saint Rose in the semifinals.

Gold and Manderson each hit two home runs, including back-to-back on consecutive pitches during Burnt Hills starting pitcher Will Kindl's only bad inning, a four-run third that gave Ballston Spa a 4-3 lead and offered a taste of the slugfest to come.

The ninth-seeded Spartans answered right back with four runs in the top of the fourth, including a two-run homer by Vinny Venditti, to go up 7-4, and Manderson's solo shot -- a no-doubter cranked over the centerfield fence -- in the fifth cut it to 7-5.

It looked like that could be the final score, until Checca stepped to the plate two outs away from a big upset by the Spartans.

After Manderson struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch, first baseman Donovan Rhoden worked a full count and drew a walk off relief pitcher Eric Agan.

The right-handed Checca got a juicy count, too, and had the green light, jerking an Agan fastball over the left-field fence.

"Fastball, up and in," Checca said. "All I was thinking was, 'Oh, my gosh. That went over.' And then Luke came in and finished it."

Despite the dramatics, the Spartans weren't down for the count, coming back to take an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth against Gold, who relieved Mike Poirier on the mound and held Burnt Hills without a hit in innings five through eight, but not scoreless.

After pinch-hitter Dillon Aldrich and Venditti started the top of the eighth with walks, Ballston Spa was in position to get out of the mess with a double play ball, but shortstop Evan Fox's throw to first was in the dirt and skipped past Rhoden, allowing Aldrich to score.

Ballston Spa started the bottom of the eighth with a hard infield single to third by Poirier, and after Fox flew out to right, Gold crushed a 3-1 pitch from Luca Carrese that looked like it might hit the scoreboard or the American flag and settled for the trees in center.

"It was a 3-1 slider. I was kind of sitting on it, because I had hit a home run earlier on a fastball. and I figured I could sit on a pitch, and I drove it," Gold said.

"We work on stuff like this all the time, and to see it come through and have such big moments like that, in front of great home crowds, it's awesome."

"I feel like we left it all out there," Duell said. "We battled them, and that's an outstanding baseball team. They made a couple plays when they had to. Made a couple huge home runs when they had to. That part of their order is just devastating, it really is."

"I'm just glad that they're resilient," Nobles said. "We came into the season with team goals, and the first thing we talked about was having the strongest mindset in the area, And then it helps when you have the Player of the Year [Gold], in those situations, and he comes up clutch."

BH-BL 120 400 01 -- 8 7 2

Ballston Spa 004 010 22 -- 9 10 4

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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