ROTTERDAM - The third time proved to be the charm for the Fonda-Fultonville baseball team.
After losing twice to Schalmont during the regular season, the seventh-seeded Braves gained a big measure of revenge Thursday, posting a 3-1 win over the second-seeded Sabres in the quarterfinals of the Section II Class B Tournament.
Albert Fiorenza delivered the decisive blow for the Braves, smacking a two-out, two-run triple to center field on a full count in the top of the seventh.
The Fonda-Fultonville baseball team celebrates after defeating Schalmont in the Section II Class B quarterfinals Thursday at Schalmont High School. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
"Albert [Fiorenza] has been getting big hits like that all year," Fonda-Fultonville coach Rick Palumbo said. "That was huge."
After working a full count against Schalmont pitcher Greg Musk, Fiorenza smacked a fastball to centerfield. The line drive bounced just in front of diving Schalmont centerfielder Tom Urbanski and continued rolling into deep center field.
"I knew he would come with a fastball," Fiorenza said. "I thought it was going to be caught. When I saw the ball hit the ground and keep rolling, it was unbelievable."
Fiorenza's clutch hit allowed Jarett Ladd and Charles Parslow to score after both had reached on singles earlier in the inning.
After mustering just two hits in the first six innings against Musk, the Braves broke through with three in their final at-bat.
"We knew we would have a tough game with them. They're [FFCS] a good team," Schalmont coach Bob Anderson said.
The late-inning heroics by Fiorenza enabled the Braves to post their first win of the season over the Sabres after losing to them twice during Colonial Council play.
Schalmont, which won the Colonial Council Patriot Division title with a 13-2 league mark, won 5-1 at Fonda-Fultonville on April 2 and 4-1 at home on May 9.
"Believe me, when I looked at the brackets, I knew that after battling through the Colonial Council all season long, that we were going to have to do it again in sectionals," Anderson said.
In addition to facing FFCS for a third time, the Sabres also had to face Braves' ace Kody Shaw for a second time.
"I knew we would see a Division I pitcher [Shaw] right off the rip," Anderson said. "We beat him earlier this season, but I knew it would be tough to do it a second time."
Shaw, a hard-throwing lefty, was forced to throw plenty of pitches in the early portion of the game as the patient Sabres made him work for outs.
"Kody [Shaw] pitched a very gritty game," Palumbo said. "I think he might have had too much rest though. He was a little bit rusty early on. He sorted it out though and we made some good plays behind him."
Shaw allowed just three hits, struck out 11, walked six and hit one batter on his way to the complete-game victory.
Going the distance looked to be in doubt until the fifth in sixth innings when Shaw was able to quickly work through the Schalmont lineup in a minimal number of pitches.
In the fifth, Shaw threw just three pitches to get three outs.
It was the first out of the inning that may have been the biggest play of the day for the Braves.
On the first pitch of the inning, Schalmont's Nick Pascarella smacked a double to right center field and tried to stretch it into a triple.
"We tried to be aggressive," Anderson said. "If they don't get that out, we're in business. They executed the relay very well."
Parslow fielded the ball in center field and threw to second baseman Alex Kocjan, who completed the relay with a perfect relay throw to Fiorenza at third base.
"The cutoff throw was picture perfect," Shaw said. "That was a key play for us."
Fiorenza put the tag on Pascarella and two pitches later, which resulted in a groundout and flyout, the inning was over.
"I was going deep into innings earlier in the game," Shaw said. "That three-pitch inning helped out and gave me a little break. It allowed me to go longer in the game."
The relay also gave the Braves a huge boost heading into the final two innings.
"That relay play was a huge play in the game," Palumbo said.
Getting out of the first two innings also was crucial for the Braves, who saw Schalmont put five runners on in the first two innings but come up empty.
In the first, Dan Bergami had a two out single for the Sabres, while Tyler Demer drew a walk. After a double steal put Bergami on third and Demers on second, Shaw escaped the jam by striking out Tyler Mattick to end the threat.
"We had all sorts of chances early, but we weren't able to capitalize," Anderson said.
Schalmont threatened again in the second, loading the bases with two outs thanks to two walks and a hit batter.
Pascarella send a groundball up the middle that looked like it would plate the first runs of the game, but instead it hit Musk as he rounded second and the interference call ended the inning.
"That was a lucky play for us," Palumbo said. "If that ball had gotten through, we would have given up a run or two."
The Braves scored the game's first run in the top of the third when Shaw plated Dan Valachovic with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly after Valachovic reached after getting hit by a pitch.
Schalmont answered in its half of the third when Demers scored on an error when FFCS catcher Wally Kowalski's throw to third got past Fiorenza at third on a double steal by the Sabres.
"That was my fault," Fiorenza said. "The throw was good, I just didn't catch it."
Fiorenza redeemed himself in a big way in the top of the seventh.
"It's incredible," Fiorenza said. "Beating Schalmont sets us up to go through the entire tournament."
Musk took the loss for the Sabres, allowing five hits, striking out seven, walking five and hitting two batters.
Pascarella, Bergami and Urbanski had the only hits for Schalmont.
"It was just one of those days," Anderson said. "We just didn't catch any breaks."
Ladd finished 2-for-3 with a run scored for FFCS, while Shaw, Fiorenza and Parslow also had hits.
FFCS, which blanked No. 10 seed Taconic Hills 11-0 on Wednesday, has used just two pitchers in its first two games and will head into its next contest in good shape.
"We're definitely setting up to win the tournament," Shaw said. "We're in it to win it."
With its victory, Fonda-Fultonville (14-8 overall) will get a third crack at another Colonial Council squad Saturday. The Braves will face sixth-seeded Albany Academy in the Class B semifinals at Bleecker Stadium in Albany.
The Cadets advanced with a 5-4 win over No. 3 Chatham on Thursday and a 6-5 win over No. 11 seed Greenville on Wednesday.
Albany Academy (13-5 overall) won both regular-season meetings with FFCS, winning 4-2 at home May 4 and 7-4 at Fonda-Fultonville on May 18.
Schalmont finishes its season with a 15-5 overall record.
Fonda-Fultonville 3, Schalmont 1
Fonda-Fultonville001 000 2 - 3 5 1
Schalmont001 000 0 - 1 3 1
K. Shaw and Kowalski; Musk and Cote.