Fort Plain falls short in Class C title game

TROY – Being a low seed in the Section II Class C baseball tournament didn’t upset the Voorheesville Blackbirds; it motivated them.

Thursday night at Joe Bruno Stadium, the defending Class C champions and 10th-seeded Blackbirds used that motivation to defeat top-seeded and 2011 Class C champion Fort Plain 14-4 to earn their second-straight sectional title.

“When we saw our seed I think we just shrugged a little bit and said ‘We did it last year as an eight-seed, no reason we can’t do it as a 10 seed,'” Voorheesville coach Kyle Turski said. “And to be honest, it was a motivating factor for this team. Being here before definitely helped. When we got here I told the guys they shouldn’t be nervous, we have been here before. Almost all these guys were here last year as varsity players or JV call-ups.”

Voorheesville, which advanced to the 2012 state final four, will play the Section X champion at 4 p.m. Monday at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam in the opening round of regional play.

Voorheesville’s Nico Church got the Blackbirds off to a fast start, opening the game with a double and later scoring for a quick 1-0 lead.

The Hilltoppers had the answer for the score as Zach Sweet drew a lead-off walk and scored on Chris Hanifin’s RBI double to deep center field.

The Blackbirds put the first two batters on in the top of the second when Mike Hennessy was hit by a pitch and Jared Paigo walked.

Hanifin, Fort Plain’s starting pitcher, struck out Kyle Nichols before Tom Gallager hit a slicing line drive to right field that Tim Wolfe got to but could not gather in, allowing Hennessey and Paigo to score. Gallager later came around to score, giving the Blackbirds a 4-1 edge.

Fort Plain could not come up with the answer this time as Voorheesville pitcher Mike Young retired 11 of the next 12 Hilltopper batters.

The lone Fort Plain base runner in the stretch was Marcus Failing, whose hustle on an infield grounder to the first baseman caused a bad toss to Young in coverage, resulting in an error.

Hanifin held the Blackbirds in check in the third and fourth innings before they broke through for two more runs in the top of the fifth and three more in the sixth.

The Hilltoppers battled back in the bottom of the sixth, putting three runs on the board.

Hanifin worked his way on with a one-out walk and Dakota Nemecek followed with a single. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and were brought home by Failing’s triple into the right-field corner.

Failing later scored on Young’s second wild pitch of the inning to cut the Blackbirds’ lead to 9-4.

Voorheesville used extra base hits to put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh, with Church tripling and Young, Nick Chiseri, and Nichols all doubling to help lock up the 14-4 victory.

“We had a great season,” Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said. “We were 19-3 and we only had to shake hands with the winning team three times in 22 games. It is great. I am dearly going to miss these kids. I don’t know what is going to happen to me. If somebody applies for the job I have to give it up. But that’s OK. I have done everything I possibly can for the program.”

Failing finished the night with a triple, two RBIs and a run scored, while Hanifin had a double, RBI and run scored. Sweet, Nemecek and Jesse Heroth all singled to round out the Hilltoppers’ five hits.

Church led Voorheesville at the plate with a triple, two doubles and a single to go with three runs scored and an RBI.

Nichols had a double and two singles, while Young helped his cause with a double and a single, an RBI and two runs scored.

“These guys were a lot of fun to coach this year,” said Phillips, who finishes the season with 696 career victories. “I wouldn’t trade these kids for anything.”

Voorheesville 14, Fort Plain 4

Voorheesville130 023 5 – 14 11 1

Fort Plain100 003 0 – 4 5 3

Young and Paigo; Hanifin, Heroth (6), Douglas (7) and Sweet.