ALBANY — For the first time this season, Fort Plain ran into a baseball team that did everything better.
Russell Gallo went to distance with 13 strikeouts, and Ticonderoga combined key hits and Fort Plain errors to bunch its runs in a 9-1 state Class C quarterfinal win Saturday at The Christian Plumeri Sports Complex.
The Hilltoppers entered the contest with a 21-0 record and a No. 1 state rank, but did not play like the team that had achieved those high standards. They made six errors, four of them when the Sentinels (Section VII, 15-2) scored four times the sixth inning, and managed a pair of hits off Gallo and only one after the opening frame.
"Today we hit a wall," Fort Plain junior catcher Brady Fureno said. "Things didn't go our way early, and things started to go their way. They kept piling on, and we didn't have an answer."
Fort Plain had outscored five playoff opponents by a 47-1 margin before Saturday's game, and won by the 10-run mercy rule in four of those games, including Thursday in an 11-0 sub-regional win over Norwood-Norfolk when John Cortese and Taylor Gifford combined on a no-hitter.
"When we played Maple Hill last year, it was the same scenario," said Gallo, a senior who also collected a double, single and two RBI. "They [Maple Hill] were No. 1 in the state, too, and we beat them 2-0 in this same game. I went the distance and had 14 strikeouts."
Ticonderoga eventually lost in the 2018 state Class C title game to Avon in eight innings 6-5. Fort Plain's 2018 edition reach the state Class D final before losing to Deposit/Hancock 9-3. Fort Plain had claimed state titles in 2016 and 2007.
"I would have loved to make it back to states," Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said after he was denied what would have been his 799th win. "Kids are kids. Hopefully, we'll be back next year."
Ticonderoga scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning off starter Troy Butler, Fort Plain got one back in the bottom half when Cortese drew a bases-loaded walk, and Sentinels pulled away in the sixth.
"We haven't really had that bitter taste all year," Fureno said. "We have it now. We'll use it as firepower."
Gallo said his team gained a lot by knocking off the Hilltoppers, who had piled up 210 runs and allowed 19 leading into the state quarterfinal.
"That's the best team we've played all year," said Gallo, a lefty who walked six to go with his 13 strikeouts. "It's definitely a confidence booster. We have a lot of head steam coming down the road."
Bryce Thibodeau hit a bloop single in the first for Fort Plain, and Dawson Nare hit a triple in the sixth before Gallo fanned two batters to keep the score at 9-1.
In the fifth, after Cortese walked to bring the Hilltoppers' run home, Gallo recorded a strikeout and got an inning-ending a groundout to end that threat
"We just didn't hit the ball today," Phillips said. "Good pitching will take care of good hitting."
A error, walk and infield single loaded the bases in the Ticonderoga fifth, and Jack Grinell hit a two-run single, Gallo hit an RBI double, and Michael DuShane hit a two-run single. Ticonderoga batted around in the inning.
"We kind of lost our composure," Phillips said.
In the Ticonderoga sixth, Fort Plain made three errors on the infield and another in the outfield, and Gallo and Nick Robarge hit RBI singles for the state's No. 2 team.
"We haven't made six errors all year," Phillips said. "Those are the things that haunt you more than a shot to the outfield."
Butler gave up five hits, struck out 10 and walked three before Gifford relieved with two down in the fifth. Thibodeau got the final five outs after he came on for Gifford in the sixth.
"I think we got behind once all year," Phillips said.
Fort Plain is losing four seniors from a team that swept through the Western Athletic Conference before winning its 12th Section II championship.
"We're not going to dwell on this loss very long," Phillips said. "We start Monday with Legion ball. We'll get better."
Ticonderoga 000 054 0 — 9 8 2
Fort Plain 000 010 0 — 1 2 6