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Schools of Thought: The last big game this year

May 25, 2009
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

This is how you end the regular season with a bang.

The Fort Plain Hilltoppers will travel to Fonda to play the Braves Tuesday in the rematch of one of the best-played games I've seen this season. The first time, it was a 4-3 win for Fonda-Fultonville.

This time, it will be for the Western Athletic Conference North Division championship and a whole mess of momentum heading into the sectional tournaments, which will be seeded Wednesday.

The Hilltoppers won the WAC North last year with an 18-1 league record.

The first meeting between these two teams, Dan Wiecek had the Fonda batters off-balance with his curveball for the first three or four innings. He struck out seven and walked two through 6 innings.

Josh Nethaway also struck out six for Fonda, walking one in six innings of work. He yielded to teammate Pat Sperow in the seventh. At the plate, Nethaway finished 2-for-3 with a double and a two-run home run. The dinger came on one of the few mistake pitches Wiecek threw in the game when he hung a curve in the sixth inning, giving the Braves what was a short-lived 3-2 lead.

Tied at three in the top of the seventh, a tiring Wiecek stayed on to pitch to Sean Myers, whom he had KOed twice in two tries. Myers broke that trend with a double to score Blake Hart from second and give the Braves their final lead.

I only hope the Hilltoppers aren't tired from playing three games over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday, they played the 16th Annual Rich Bower Tournament, which last year was played a week earlier in the season. Canajoharie coach Brent Watterson said before this season that playing in the Bower tournament in tough games Saturday and Sunday in 2008 took a physical toll on his players before they took the field against some of their tougher WAC opponents in the final full week of the regular season.

Now the Hilltoppers have that post-Bower tournament fatigue to overcome. Not just for Tuesday's game, but also with sectionals bearing down on them.

The Hilltoppers have won the Section II Class C championship each of the last three years. They won the state championship two years ago and reached the state finals last year.

Of course, Fort Plain isn't supposed to be this good. Not if you asked coach Craig Phillips at the beginning of the season, when he said he just hoped they reached .500 and were allowed by their school board to defend their sectional championship. The school district decreed no sub-.500 team can petition into the playoffs or enter open playoffs.

Of course, the Hilltoppers already have taken that decision out of the hands of anyone that sought to make it for them.

Fonda is set for the postseason, as well, and will likely be seeded ahead of all other local Class B teams. The Braves beat Johnstown in non-league play (Johnstown swept Broadalbin-Perth in three meetings) and FFCS swept Saratoga Catholic.

Another win over Fort Plain would be another feather in the cap of the Braves.

Even though the teams are in different classes, the sectional implications are there. They both have a lot to play for with the league title on the line, bragging rights and another boost in confidence entering the postseason.

I can think of few better ways to end the regular season than watching these two teams bang heads and bats again.

 
 

 

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