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Schools of Thought

Can you believe what just happened?

April 28, 2008
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald
Walking away from the field Friday night, the first person I called didn’t believe me when I told him, “Johnstown, 9-5.”

“Johnstown won?”

It was a fair response. The Sir Bills were 1-5 a few hours earlier, warming up for a game with 6-3 Gloversville.

Records aside, the Sir Bills had not been playing too awfully well.

In the newspaper business, we’re not supposed to be fans, so we can’t — as the signs now say in the big stadiums of every underdog — “Believe.” Seeing is believing, and from what I had seen in the previous couple games Johnstown had played, they were supposed to lose to Gloversville by about 10 runs.

It was going to be a horrible déjà vu of last season’s start with no promise of a reprieve, like the eight-win finish the Sir Bills pulled out in 2007. I even had the déjà vu column half written for today’s edition, just in case I was right.

I wasn’t. And neither was anyone who had any sense or knew anything about how they had been playing.

Nobody could have guessed Gloversville ace Kris Barone was going to walk nine batters and combine with two teammates to walk 14. One was intentional, but still, that’s a lot of free passes and they came in bunches.

Johnstown scored first, then later came back from a 4-2 deficit and poured it on late in the game. They scored nine runs on three hits.

More impressive, more noteworthy and certainly more unusual was the turnaround in the field by the Sir Bills. What made it unusual was the defensive alignment coach Aaron Mraz employed.

Jordan Hill was at shortstop and admitted before the game to having virtually no experience at the position. Jake Arrunategui, who had been having trouble in the middle infield early in the season, was moved to left field. Jason Biron was at second base and Colin Lombardoni in right field.

Not only did this defensive alignment do well enough to win, they played seven innings of errorless ball, which has been hard to come by this season.

The first test came in the second inning when Hill fielded a grounder and fired to first, barely beating a hustling Tyler Malagisi. In the third, Arrunategui was tested by the first two batters. He was on the move to catch a liner, then on the run toward the infield for a shallow pop-up, calling off Hill for the play. In the fourth, with a runner on second, he was backpedaling and in a slightly awkward position, but caught a long fly ball off the bat of Chris LeFever.

Biron snagged a couple floaters in the infield, but rarely had anything hit too hard at him. Lombardoni made a diving catch on a line drive to right for the second out of the seventh inning.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Sir Bills certainly needed a win. This new alignment will stay, for the moment, Mraz said. Johnstown will get to test it out again today against visiting Glens Falls at 4:15 p.m.

Mraz said he used the Mohonasen wooden bat tournament Saturday to have some fun and threw a lot of different pitchers. Fun and light intentions aside, Gloversville beat Johnstown 16-8 in the second game of the tournament.

When it counts again, it will be at Husky Field and your guess is as good as mine as to how it will end.

However, there is no doubt in my mind Barone will want the ball again. He is not a nine-walk pitcher and he’ll probably want to show that to the Johnstown fans who couldn’t get a great idea of what he can do Friday.

You can believe that.


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