Hilltoppers ready for state semifinals

Fort Plain's Troy Butler throws to the plate during the Section II Class D championship game against Whitehall at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy on May 26. Fort Plain faces Madrid-Waddington today in the state semifinals. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

FORT PLAIN — Experience will be on the side of the Fort Plain Hilltoppers when they play Section X champion Madrid-Waddington in the NYSPHSAA Class D state semifinals today at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton.

Even though Madrid-Waddington’s roster features 10 seniors and the Hilltoppers have no upperclassmen on the squad, the scale tips in favor of Fort Plain for postseason experience with four players, juniors Bryce Thibodeau, Jaxson Yacowenia, Dawson Nare and sophomore Brady Fureno, having played on the 2016 Class D state championship team.

The Yellowjackets have put together an impressive 11-1 record this season in the St. Lawrence Region of the state, including a solid 11-1 victory over Section VII champion Lake Placid in Plattsburgh Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time in the programs existence.

Madrid-Wadding will look to senior pitcher Shane Tiernan to lead the way with his 1.21 earned run average and 72 strike outs. The Yellowjackets can hit the ball, having four players with .400-plus batting averages and outscoring opponents 121-22 this season. They also come up with the opportune hit as shown against Lake Placid when they made the most of nine Bomber errors to secure the victory.

The Hilltoppers come in with a 16-3 overall record and have posted a pair of 10-run rule postseason victories and have outscored their opponents 42-8 in the four games. They have a pair of state championships (Class C 2007, Class D 2016), 25 league titles, 11 Section II championships and picked up their sixth regional championship under the state’s winningest high school coach Craig Phillips (776 wins) with a 13-0 drubbing of Section 9 champion Tuxedo last Saturday in Glens Falls.

Fort Plain has also put runs on the board, outscoring its opponents 148-51 this year with a solid defense behind a solid pitching rotation featuring John Cortese, Troy Butler and Thibodeau to post five shut outs and five games in which the opponent scored a single run.

Fort Plain faces a format change from its last trip to the final four two years ago.

The semifinal and championship games were played on the same day before the tournament format change to a two-day format playing the semifinals today and the title game Saturday.

With a victory today, the Hilltoppers would advance to play the winner of today’s other semifinal game between Section IV’s Deposit/Hancock and Section VI’s Brocton for the state Class D championship Saturday at 10 a.m. at Binghamton University.