Hilltoppers fall short in state quarterfinals
ALBANY — A return trip to Binghamton was not in the cards for the Fort Plain Hilltoppers.
The 2018 state class D finalist moved up to Class C this season and rolled to a 21-0 record heading into the state Regional Championship game against Section VII champion Ticonderoga.
The 2018 Class C finalists made the most of six Fort Plain errors to deal the top-ranked Hilltoppers their first loss of the season 9-1 Saturday at the Plumeri Sports Complex at the College of St. Rose.
“I guess you could say you are never as good when you win as you think you are and you are never as bad as when you get buried like that,” Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said. “I don’t mind losing but we kind of lost our composure. Good pitching takes care of good hitting and they had the better pitcher today.”
Fort Plain’s Troy Butler and Ticonderoga’s Russell Gallo engaged in a pitcher’s duel through the first four innings of Saturday’s championship game. Both pitchers allowed no runs and one hit, while Butler struck out eight and Gallo struck out seven.
Ticonderoga’s Terrence Benedict reached on an error leading off the top of the fifth and Conall Tierney followed with a walk before Butler struck out Monty Benedict. Carson Reeves loaded the bases with an infield single before Jack Grinnell put the Sentinels on the board with a two RBI single. Gallo followed with an RBI double before Michael DuShane chased Butler with a two RBI single to put Ticonderoga up 5-0.
The bottom of the inning opened the same way for the Hilltoppers as Jaxson Yacowenia reached on an error, Butler walked and Brady Fureno struck out. Bryce Thibodeau was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
John Cortese worked the count for a walk, scoring Yacowenia to put the score at 5-1 with the bases still loaded and one out.
Gallo battled back with a strikeout and assisted on a putout to get out of the jam.
A dropped third strike and an error on the throw-down to first again opened the door for the Sentinels as they scored three runs on three hits and three Fort Plain errors to take a 9-1 lead.
“Those things will come out and haunt you more than a shot to the outfield,” Phillips said. “I mean we gave up 19 runs coming into this game and today we gave up nine and had six errors. I don’t think we had that many [errors] all year and we had most of them in one inning.
Dawson Nare picked up the Hilltoppers second hit of the game with a one-out triple in the bottom of the sixth but Gallo again ended the threat by striking out the final two batters.
Fort Plain again got the lead-off batter on in the top of the seventh on an error butt could not capitalize on the opportunity as the Sentenels closed out the game to punch their ticket to the state Class C final four.
“This shows you there are good teams out there and especially when you get to this time of the season everybody you play is great,” Phillips said. “So, congratulations to Ticonderoga.”
Grinnell and DuShane finished with two singles and two RBIs apiece for Ticonderoga, while Gallo had a double and Nick Robarge-Greene had a single.
Gallo allowed two hits, struck out 13 and walked five for the complete-game victory.
Nare finished with a triple for Fort Plain, while Thibodeau singled to account for the Hilltoppers’ hits.
Butler finished with 10 strikeouts, while Taylor Gifford struck out two and Thibodeau struck out one on the mound for Fort Plain.
“When you are 21-0 it is a great year for our kids,” Phillips, who ends the season with 798 career wins, said. You win with great kids but now we are 21-1. They worked so hard and we have only four seniors. I would have like to have made it back to states but you can’t predict what is going to happen. They won’t dwell on the loss very long. We start legion ball Monday.”
Ticonderoga 9, Fort Plain 1
Ticonderoga 000 054 0 — 9 8 2
Fort Plain 000 010 0 — 1 2 6
Gallo and Grinnell; Butler, Gifford (5), Thibodeau (7) and Fureno.