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MAR - Semi: Niskayuna wins over Spring-Ford, 8-7

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: MAR - Semi: Niskayuna wins over Spring-Ford, 8-7

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MAR - Semi: Niskayuna wins over Spring-Ford, 8-7

Niskayuna proves it belongs
Advances to 11-year-old Mid-Atlantic finale

CLIFTON PARK – Niskayuna coach Tom Spataro never doubted his team’s potential heading into the Cal Ripken Baseball 11-year-old Mid-Atlantic Regional in Clifton Park this week and on Tuesday afternoon, his Warriors didn’t let him down.

Niskayuna's Connor Hagan hit a game-winning fielder's choice in the bottom of the sixth inning, allowing Garrett Whitley to beat a spinning tag by the Northwestern Pennsylvania champion, Spring-Ford catcher, for the 8-7 win and a spot in the championship game.

“Last year as 10-year-olds we went to states and built on that,” Spataro said.
Niskayuna earned a spot in the Mid-Atlantic Regional as the Eastern New York State consolation final winner, with Clifton Park and Wilton advancing as the area champion and runner-ups.

The Warriors (5-0) never felt like a second-class team.

“We never looked at it as if we snuck in,” Spataro said. “We played Clifton Park to a 1-0 loss and won with a win over the Clifton Park 2 team. I never thought any lesser of our players.”

After four lead changes, the final local squad was left with its final at-bats in the semifinal versus Spring-Ford.

Whitley reached on a lead-off walk and moved to second on a passed ball. Lee Esposito followed with a single to left center. Hagan hit a grounder to third as Whitley broke from the bag and beat the throw home for the semifinal winning run.
“I had no idea where the ball was hit,” Whitley said about racing home and then re-touching the plate after the play. “We had a play in states where that happened. Now coach tells us to go back and touch the plate.”

The contest saw three different players hit home runs, adding more drama to the series of ties.

Whitley connected on a Matt Daywalt pitch, driving in Tom Favata, knotting the game at seven apiece in the top of the fourth inning before showing patience at the plate late in the game.

“My dad says that a walk is as good as a single,” Whitley said. “A lot of the pitches were outside, not even close.”

It was the four consecutive contest that Niskayuna came from behind for the win.
The Warriors were down, 4-0, to Southeast Pennsylvania champion, Warrington before winning, 7-4. They were down, 6-1, to Delaware champion, Bear, and came out ahead, 10-8 and down 3-0 to Southern New Jersey champion, Sacred Heart, before scoring 10 straight runs for the win.

“We bunt, we run and have a couple of kids that can pop the ball out,” Spataro said. “We’ve been lucky that when they have hit home runs we’ve had kids on base.”
Spring-Ford took its second lead of the contest in the top of the fourth, again on a home run.

Zack Zoller reached with a one-out single and Kevin Shields drilled a Tom Favata offering over the center field fence for a 7-5 lead.

Spring-Ford tied the contest earlier, for the second time, 5-5, in the top of the third when Matt Daywalt led off with a single, advancing to second on the left fielder's error. Justin Siejk singled him over and Matt Yost drove him in with a single through the left side.

Niskayuna pulled ahead, 5-4 in the bottom half of the second as Matt Spataro was hit by a pitch and stole second. He advanced on Whitley's single and Esposito's single RBI single.

Spring-Ford tied the game at four apiece in the top of the second inning after Matt Mesaros led off with a double. He moved over on a groundout, scoring on a passed ball.

Niskayuna rebounded from a disastrous first inning, taking the lead, 4-3, on four hits.

Tom Spataro started it off, reaching on a bunt and moved over on Tom Favata's single. Both runners moved into scoring position on a groundout and Spataro scored on Connor Hagan's fielder's choice. Favata scored on Brian Toy's double off the right field fence. Hagan tied the contest at three when he stole home. Toy put the Warriors ahead, 4-3, scoring on Jesse Darsinos’ single past the third baseman.

The afternoon had a rough start for Niskayuna pitcher Adam Gleason, hitting Spring-Ford batter Zach Zoller and walking Kevin shields before giving up a three-run home run to Zachary Smiley that sailed over the center field fence giving the Northwest Pennsylvania champion a 3-0 lead.

Niskayuna utilized three pitchers in the semifinal, Gleason, Favata and Toy, still leaving the Warriors with enough arms for the scheduled final against the Metro New York champion, Kingsbridge.

“We haven’t ridden one kid all tournament,” Spataro said. “We stick to that formula.”

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