Phillips collects 700th career win in dramatic fashion

FORT PLAIN – Monday afternoon, the Schoharie Indians were looking to play the role spoiler again.

In 2009, the Indians delayed Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips 600th career victory with a 1-0 win. Phillips got the milestone win two days later on the Hilltoppers’ home field with a 15-1 win over St. Johnsville.

With Phillips 700th career coaching victory in the forecast, Schoharie fought the Hilltoppers to a 3-3 tie after seven innings to sent the game into extra innings and take a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.

However, the Hilltoppers were not to be denied as they battled back to tie the game and win it on Kiernan Briggs’ full count, two out, RBI single to give the veteran coach his 700th victory.

“Last time we beat them, but today it didn’t work out . . . almost,” Schoharie coach Lenny Coons said.

After the game Phillips, the winningest baseball coach in Section II, joked with the members of the media, saying, “I appreciate you guys hanging around. I would have left in the second inning.”

Phillips emotions ran the gamut as he reflected about his career, former players and coaches and the current Hilltoppers squad.

“[It has been] A lot of bus rides, a lot of fund raisers, a lot of car washes, a lot of $20 raffles and a lot of horse crap,” he said. “It is just that sound of the ball hitting the bat that keeps me going. It is fun. I pick on these kids something awful and bust them but they take it. Now, tomorrow I have to buy supper for them at Golden Corral.”

In his 39 years as coach of the Hilltoppers, Phillips has guided the team to 21 league titles, nine Section II championships and the 2007 Class C state championship.

Phillips was honored at the 2011 American Baseball Coaches Association Yearly Conference as the 2010 National “Small School” Coach of the Year and was inducted into The Capital District Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Troy last October.

“I knew I loved baseball from the very first day when Coach McCarthy from Cobleskill taught me in T-ball,” Phillips said. “I have loved it every since.”