Fort Plain falls short in Class D title game
VESTAL — The Fort Plain Hilltoppers quest for a third state championship came to an end Saturday at Binghamton University.
Facing Section IV champion Deposit/Hancock, Fort Plain fought an uphill battle the entire game and came up on the short end of the 9-3 final score in the NYSPHSAA Class D championship game.
“We picked the wrong day to come out flat,” Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said. “We are a better team than you saw today. They just wanted it more. They hit the ball. We pitched Johnny [starting pitcher John Cortese] a couple innings yesterday and maybe he wasn’t throwing as hard as he normally does. They got a run off him and we tied them at 1-1. Then they came back and got a couple more.”
For Deposit/Hancock it was the Eagles’ first state title in two straight trips to the final four since merging programs two years ago.
The Eagles got off to a fast start when Darren Shaver doubled over the third-base bag and came home on Cole Russell’s single for a quick 1-0 lead.
Fort Plain came close to answering the run in the bottom of the first when Bryce Thibodeau reached on a fielding error and moved to second when Cortese was hit by a pitch. After a dropped third strike with Troy Butler at the plate, Eagles’ catcher Bob Levis’ throw to first sailed high. Thibodeau raced around third and attempted to score but the throw back to the plate was in time to get the final out of the inning.
After setting the Eagles down in order in the top of the second, Fort Plain got the run back in the bottom of the inning.
Nate Buley worked his way on with a lead-off walk and went to third on a botched pick off attempt. He later scored on a wild pitch to knot the score at one apiece.
The top of the Deposit/Hancock batting order came through again in the top of the third.
Shaver opened with a triple and scored on Russell’s RBI single. A walk and a fielding error loaded the bases for Austin Lenio and he responded with an RBI single. Caleb Walker followed with a sacrifice fly to build the Eagles lead to 4-1.
The Hilltoppers again responded with Jaxson Yacowenia working his way on with a lead-off walk and moved to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Thibodeau picked up the RBI with a ground-rule double over the right field fence.
“I always look to get hits out there early. That is what we were looking for and it got done,” Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau moved to third on Butler’s single before the Eagles got the final out on a line-drive to left by Buley.
The Shaver-Russell combination clicked again in the top of the fourth.
Shaver again led off with a triple and Russell reach on an error that allowed Shaver to come around and score. Russell later scored on an RBI single by Lenio to push the score to 6-2 in favor of the Eagles.
The Hilltoppers put a runner in scoring position when Zach Reid tripled with one out but Deposit/Hancock pitcher Owen Wormuth got out of the jam with a strike out and a ground out to second.
The Eagles picked up another run in the top of the sixth on a controversial play at the plate.
Russell reached base on an fielding error, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Russell attempted to steal home and was tagged out as he plowed into Fureno at the plate. The call was overturned and Russell was called safe as it was determined a balk was committed on the play by Fort Plain relief pitcher Taylor Gifford.
“The pitcher came set and he walked off in front of the rubber so it was an illegal pitch,” Phillips said. “My comment was that there was malicious contact at the plate. In high school you have to slide. That sent John [assistant coach John Fureno] off. I had to stick up for him and am surprised I didn’t get tossed with him.”
Fort Plain again battled back and put another run on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Buley and Josh Nellis drew back-to-back walks with one out.
Shaver came in and was called for a balk on his first pitch to advance the runners to second and third. Reid delivered Buley to the plate with a sacrifice fly and cut the Eagles’ lead to 7-3.
Deposit/Hancock responded with two more runs in the top of the seventh when Brody Soules and Ray Rynearson singled and scored on a single by Russell to put the score at 9-3.
Shaver shut the Hilltoppers down in the bottom of the seventh, getting the final out on a grounder to first to lock up Deposit/Hancock’s first state title.
“I think we came out flat in the beginning,” Brady Fureno said. “Their lead-off hitter had a couple triples and a double. It is kind of hard when they have a guy starting at third almost every inning. We answered a couple of times but we just couldn’t keep up with them. Today they were the better team.”
Shaver finished the game with two triples a double and three runs scored. Russell had three singles, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Fort Plain managed three hits in the game, a triple by Reid, double by Thibodeau and a single by Butler.
“Baseball in Fort Plain is a tradition and tradition does not graduate,” Phillips said. “I tell the kids all the time that this is not a one-year team, it is a program and we will be back. You look around, there are no seniors on this team. I have been here six times and won it twice. You have to know that anybody you play now are as good or better than you and you have to accept that fact. We beat a good Whitehall team and that probably shouldn’t have happened. To get here we are very fortunate.”
Thibodeau summed it up saying, “It is a great feeling to get here. Right now, we may feel terrible and on the verge of tears, but we made it this far and that is amazing.”
The Hilltoppers, who will jump up to Class C next year, finished the season with a 17-4 record.
Deposit/Hancock 9, Fort Plain 3
Deposit/Hancock 103 201 2 — 9 11 2
Fort Plain 011 001 0 — 3 3 4
Wormuth, Shaver (6) and Levis; Cortese, Butler (3), Gifford (5) and Fureno.