BALLSTON SPA — Coach Curtis Nobles gave Ballston Spa senior Jake Manderson a big tip of the cap after his three-hit pitching effort in last week's 4-2 state quarterfinal win against Whitesboro.
Turns out it was a tip of his cap that helped Manderson finish strong.
"Sometimes you get that nervous gut feeling," Manderson said. "I'll read the quotes, and it all goes away."
Inked on the under brim of Manderson's hats — he wears a couple throughout the season — are a bunch of inspiring quotes, one-word expressions and names of loved ones. When he needs a boost, or just a deep inhale reminder, he'll go to his lid to find it.
"In the last inning, I did," Manderson said of the tense state quarterfinal. "It was unusual. To be quite honest, I got really nervous. In my hat, it says, 'Breathe,' and that's what I tried to do."
His cap also reads, 'Compete,' and that's what the varsity veteran and the rest of his teammates did Saturday in another groundbreaking state tournament win for the program. It featured Donovan Rhoden's go-ahead two-run homer, and Manderson's effort was capped by two scoreless innings.
The Scotties (22-2) meet Sayville (Section XI, 21-6-1) in a state Class A semifinal Friday at 5 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School.
"Between innings, he'd [Manderson] take a peek at it," Ballston Spa senior Luke Gold said. "I did the same thing."
All of the Scotties have meaningful words, phrases and names scribed on their hats. On Gold's hat, it reads, 'Thoughts Become Things,' which is a concept backed by Nobles.
"It's a belief system I installed five years ago, when I first came in," said Nobles, whose own hat is marked with "Believe" and "Achieve" in dark bold letters.
Manderson, who catches when he isn't on the mound, said he's been lid lifting since he was in Little League.
"Probably around 10 years, a long time before coach had us all do it," Manderson said. "If you go around, you'll see all of the hats have it, but I definitely write the most. It's not like I look at it all the time, but it helps a lot."
The George Mason commit went the distance when Ballston Spa beat Queensbury 4-0 in the sectional semifinals, and his two innings of scoreless relief were a key part of the Scotties' 9-3 title-game win over Averill Park. Ballston Spa opened state play with a 10-0 sub-regional win over Massena when Gold, Chance Checca and Manderson homered to back Nick Reed's shutout pitching.
"Coach always says the pressure is on them, and stay relaxed," said Manderson, whose sixth-inning grand slam finished off Massena. "I have a reminder."
Manderson's cap quotes include "Remember where you come from," "I promise I'll show you how great I really am" and a Latin phrase that translates to "A rough road leads to the stars."
The Scotties had a nice run, but a rough ending to their 2018 season with a 3-1 loss to Columbia in the Section II Class AA final. They cleared that area championship hurdle by beating Averill Park before those wins over Massena and Whitesboro set up the meeting with Sayville.
Sayville won its first overall Long Island championship with a 1-0 win over W.T. Clarke. Notre Dame commit Brock Murtha pitched a no-hitter, and Sayville won it in the seventh on an RBI single by Jack Davis.
Maine-Endwell (Section IV, 14-4) and Canandaigua (Section V, 17-7) meet Friday at 2 p.m. in the other state Class A semifinal. Saturday's 10 a.m. championship game will be held at Binghamton University.
In other state semifinals Friday, Class AA Shenendehowa (17-7) meets Massapequa (Section VIII, 22-4) at 5 p.m. at Binghamton University, Class B Schuylerville (17-7) plays Medina (Section VI, 21-2) at 2 p.m. at Broome Community College, and Class D Whitehall (15-2) goes against South Kortright (Section IV, 16-2) at 5 p.m. at MacArthur Park. The title games are all set for Saturday.