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Clifton Park Lightning claim 8-yr-old Cal Ripken Eastern New York State title

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Clifton Park Lightning claim 8-yr-old Cal Ripken Eastern New York State title

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.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Clifton Park Lightning claim 8-yr-old Cal Ripken Eastern New York State title

TROY — It was a game for all of the marbles…well sort of.

The Saratoga Americans and Clifton Park Lightning 8-year-old Cal Ripken teams had already earned a berth in next week’s Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament hosted by Spring Baseball so Wednesday night’s game was about seeding and the title of Eastern New York State Champion.

So the two squads did what they have been doing all year…playing like major leaguers.

In a back and forth contest with stellar defense, aggressive base running and a nail-biting save opportunity, Clifton Park was crowned the champion after a 4-3 win over Saratoga.

Both teams stayed with their original game plans, with Saratoga running and Clifton Park showing more arms on the pitcher’s mound than a stadium wave from the crowd.

The Americans were cut down twice early on at third and at second place before finally plating Jacob Young who reached with a one-out walk in the third. He moved over on Lucci Bonacio’s infield single, raced to third after a wild pitch and came home to score on Anthony Sudigala’s grounder back to the pitcher for the early 1-0 lead.

Clifton Park responded with a three run third, keyed on Drew Signor’s centerfield gap triple that rolled to the fence, driving in Christian Echivarria, Joe Meyer and Sean Konarski.

“I thought it was a triple and then it hit the fence and I thought ‘home, home,” Signor said.

He flew around the base paths, but a late decision allowed him to be thrown out at home on a laser from the cut-off man.

“I thought my coach was going to stop me to come back (to third),” Signor said. “I started to slow down and then ran again.”

While Clifton Park made their mark with one swing the of the bat, the Americans continued to chip away at the leaders.

Nate Chudy reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced on a walk to Peter O’Toole walk and Connor Hart fielder’s choice. He cut the lead, 3-2, scoring on a Max Ott grounder that was thrown away by the second baseman.

Clifton Park kept the pressure on when Kellan Kennedy reached on an infield single, stole second and moved to third on Meyer’s grounder back to the mound. Sean Konarski finished his 3-for-3 evening with an RBI double to left field for the eventual game-winner.

“I was just looking to make contact,” Konarski said. “I knew we needed another run. They mercy’d (10-run mercy-rule victory) us the first time we played them and we beat them by one run the other time. We wanted to be the state champion.”

Up, 4-2, the Saratoga Americans remained hungry for a title and a bigger trophy to take home in their final at-bats.

Aidan Holmes reached with a one-out single before Christian Kondo walked and came home on O’Toole’s RBI single just inside the third base line, putting the Americans on the doorstep, 4-3.

Connor Hart walked to load the bases and put the pressure on Clifton Park reliever Kyle Malmberg.

With the count in the batter’s favor, 2-0, he enticed a slow grounder up the first base line that Anthony Cordes snagged and then raced back to the bag for the out and the title.

“I was really relaxed at the beginning with no outs,” Malmberg said. “I walked a couple and with two outs I knew if I walked in the run it would tie it or lose in extra innings.”

Both squads advance to next week’s Mid-Atlantic Regional beginning Aug. 5 at the Spring Baseball Complex, but won’t see each other unless both reach the semifinals Aug. 8.

“They kept us off balance with their pitching and we didn’t have the bats against their battery,” Saratoga American manager Chris Hart said. “We tried to play Saratoga baseball.

“We threw two out at the plate and knew we would make plays and they would make plays,” Hart said. “We had men on third with two outs. We’ll be back in a week.”

It’s been a long season for the Lightning, but has paid off.

“It’s amazing how mature these kids are,” Clifton Park manager Paul Reinisch said. “Two outs and a man on third, throws from the outfield, they throw like high schoolers.”

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