TROY — Fort Plain pitcher John Cortese was in a heap of trouble after Hoosick Falls put together a second and third threat to begin Saturday's Section II Class C baseball final.
"I was struggling a bit," Cortese said. "I didn't get mad at myself. I just tried to throw strikes."
He threw a lot of them.
Cortese struck out the side to escape that first-inning jam, and the junior righty continued to string zeros afterward as the Hilltoppers collected a bunch of timely hits in a 10-0, mercy-rule shortened victory over the Panthers at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
Cortese had one of those knocks, an RBI double in a four-run fourth, to go with his four-hit, 14-strikeout performance over five-plus innings that was such a big part of Fort Plain's 12th sectional title and second in as many years.
"He struck out 14," Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said. "That's been our MO all year. We get a lot of strikeouts. We've given up 19 runs in 20 games."
Game 20 didn't start well, but got better in a hurry as the state's No. 1-ranked team improved to 20-0.
"Stuff like that happens," Fort Plain sophomore hitting star Troy Butler said of the game's start. "I knew he [Cortese] was going to get through it. That's his personality."
Fort Plain's 10-6, eight-inning win over Whitehall in last year's Section II Class D final was part of its run to the state championship game, where the Hilltoppers fell short of what would have been a third New York title. Fort Plain returned its entire roster from last year.
"There's something about Fort Plain kids. They're never satisfied," Phillips said after winning his 797th game with the Hilltoppers. "They want to get to the state tournament. I think we've got a chance in the regionals."
Fort Plain will play Section X's Norwood-Norfolk Thursday at 5 p.m. in a sub-regional game at Canton High School.
"We can't be thinking about getting back [to the state final four]. It's one game at a time," Butler said. "Hopefully, we'll get there."
"It's nice to get another one," Cortese said of the Section II championship. "It feels nice, but we've got to keep our heads straight. If we keep hitting and play our game, we'll be good."
Cortese walked Sam Richard to begin the game, and Ryan Bloomer smacked a double to deep right to create an instant Hoosick Falls threat. Cortese then fanned the side, like he did again in the third, fourth and fifth innings. In the fifth, he got out of a bases loaded situation created by a single and two of his five walks.
"The fastball was definitely working for me today," Cortese said.
Butler pitched a gem to help Fort Plain reach the title game, with the sophomore holding Greenwich hitless for six innings in a 6-1 semifinal triumph. Butler and Taylor Gifford joined on a two-hitter in that one, and Gifford finished up Saturday after Cortese gave up a walk and a single to start the sixth.
Gifford recorded a strikeout and induced a double play in his stint, and RBI singles by Jaxson Yacowenia and Butler made it 10-0 and ended the contest in the home sixth.
Fort Plain scored three runs in the third before its four-run fourth off Hoosick Falls starter Evan Webster. Butler had a double, two singles and three RBI, Gifford hit a two-run double, Yacowenia had a triple, single and an RBI and Brady Fureno had two singles and an RBI.
Bloomer provided Hoosick Falls (12-10) with its only extra-base hit. Hoosick Falls came from the No. 13 seed to the title game, and knocked off top-seed Chatham 2-1 in the semifinal round
Hoosick Falls 000 000 —0 4 3
Fort Plain 003 412 — 10 11 0