CLIFTON PARK — Shenendehowa's young baseball team is taking a veteran approach into its state Class AA regional championship game Saturday with Fayetteville-Manlius at Onondaga Community College.
Fayetteville-Manlius has 11 wins to its credit and has lost just as many times, but baseball is a what-have-you-done-lately kind of game, and what the Hornets have done lately has the Plainsmen's full attention.
"They're a winning team right now," said Shenendehowa outfielder Sam Law, one of eight juniors who started in the Section II final for the Plainsmen. "They're a hot team. They're going to come out and battle us. We've got to find a way to come out on top."
Fayetteville-Manlius did that as the No. 7 seed in the Section III tournament, beating No. 2 West Genesee in the quarterfinals 3-1, No. 3 Cicero-North Syracuse in the semifinals 5-0 and No. 1 Baldwinsville in the championship game 4-2 to become the most unlikely of the state's remaining Class AA squads.
Heading into sectional play, the Hornets had only won three of their previous dozen games. They advanced to their area championship game, though, and knocked off a Baldwinsville team that was the defending Section III champion and last year's state runner-up. Seth Reisman hit a two-run single for the Hornets, and Thomas Coleman struck out nine while working in and out of trouble in that title win.
"We need to play like they're undefeated," Shenendehowa junior outfielder Patrick McGuire said. "Every team left has won a championship, so you know they've got something going. We're going to try to get through them."
Fayetteville-Manlius will be returning to the place where it captured its first Section III baseball title. Shenendehowa (16-7) advanced with a 7-1, nine-inning win over Niskayuna that saw senior Brendan Disonell hurl a complete-game four-hitter.
"We're going into our opponent's territory," Shenendehowa coach Greg Christodulu said. "They're familiar with the territory. I've scouted there, but we've never played there. The lights are a little lower, and that's something we'll have to deal with. In 2016, Liverpool lost in the sectional championship against C-NS when an outfielder lost the ball in the lights. That was the difference in the game."
Shenendehowa beat that C-NS team in the 2016 regionals at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium as a stepping stone to the school's only state baseball championship.
"That would be insane for such a young team," Law said. "First, we have to get through the regional."
"We need everyone to play their hearts out," McGuire said.
Christodulu said Fayetteville-Manlius is an aggressive team on the basepaths.
"They have 65 stolen bases in 76 attempts," he said. "We expect them to be running and trying to create opportunities to score."
Fayetteville-Manlius was elevated to No. 17 in the most recent state poll after not being ranked all season, and Shenendehowa jumped from No. 21 to No. 11 after beating La Salle 5-4, Saratoga Springs 3-2 and top-seeded Niskayuna in the playoffs.
"We thought if we could get to 'The Joe' and be competitive, it would be a successful season for us," Christodulu said. "We grew up quite a bit in this playoff process."
Junior Jake Reinisch hit a walk-off RBI singe in the seventh inning when Shenendehowa eliminated Saratoga. Reinisch also broke a 1-1 tie in the ninth inning against Niskayuna with an RBI triple. McGuire hit a two-run single later in the ninth, and Law hit an RBI single in that inning to go with two diving catches he made earlier in the game.
"Big-time players make big-time plays in big games, and a number of our guys have done that," Christodulu said. "We talk about stepping up."
"We're still here because we stuck to the game plan and executed," Law said. "It's a great feeling to be able to keep playing baseball in the first weeks of June."
Ballston Spa (21-2) meets Whitesboro (Section III, 14-4) in a Class A regional final Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Shuttleworth Park. The Scotties beat Massena 10-0 Thursday in a six-inning sub-regional when Nick Reed struck out 11 and Jake Manderson, Luke Gold and Chance Checca homered. Manderson launched a grand slam.
Nathan Preston hit a pair of two-run doubles as part of Schuylerville's 11-1, six-inning sub-regional Class B win over Northeastern Clinton Thursday. The Black Horses (16-7) take on Ogdensburg Free Academy (Section X, 16-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. at The Christian Plumeri Sports Complex and are expected to go up against Ethan Baldwin. Baldwin threw his third perfect game this season and fanned 17 when OFA beat Potsdam 6-0 for the Section X title. The senior also has two no-hitters this year.
Fort Plain (21-0) and Ticonderoga (Section VII, 14-2) meet Saturday at 4 p.m. at Plumeri Sports Complex in a Class C regional final. Ticonderoga was the 2018 state Class C runner-up, and Fort Plain was the 2018 state Class D runner-up. The Hilltoppers beat Norwood-Norfolk Thursday 10-0 in five innings when John Cortese and Taylor Gifford joined on a no-hitter. Ticonderoga beat Lake Placid 15-0 with a 19-hit attack in the Section VII title game.
Whitehall (14-2) and Livingston Manor (Section IX, 10-8) square off in a Class D regional final Saturday at 1 p.m. at Cantine Field in Saugerties.
The state semifinals and title games are next Friday and Saturday in the Binghamton area.