BY MICHAEL KELLY
AMSTERDAM — Needing a win to bolster its resume for a bid to sectionals, the Niskayuna baseball came back twice in a 7-5 win tonight at Shuttleworth Park against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
“We knew we needed to win,” said Niskayuna pitcher Mike Gabriele, who went the distance and struck out two.
The Silver Warriors trailed 2-0 after the first inning, but surged ahead after scoring once in the second and twice in the third. Chris Wilk blasted a home run for Niskayuna’s first run, while an RBI triple from Pat O’Brien and an RBI sacrifice fly from Garrett Whitley did the damage in the third.
After a three-run home run in the fourth inning for Burnt Hills — a disputed round-tripper, as the home-plate umpire had originally called the hit a foul ball — Niskayuna battled back in the fifth.
With the bases loaded, Niskayuna went ahead for good on a bizarre sequence. A ground ball to third base resulted in a force out at third; the ensuing throw home was in time, but Tyler Hanft scored when Burnt Hills catcher Danny Maynard stepped on the plate instead of tagging Hanft. Maynard then threw the ball toward first base, but the ball went into right field — allowing two more Niskayuna runs to score.
With their backs up against the wall in their regular season finale, O’Brien said the club never panicked. Instead, it called upon times playing together as youngsters when it needed a rally.
“We’ve had comebacks like this in the past,” he said. “It felt normal to us.”
“There was never any doubt in the dugout,” said Niskayuna head coach John Furey. “It was a gutsy game.”
Catcher Matt Toy went 4-for-4 in the win and plated Niskayuna’s final run in the fifth inning. O’Brien also had multiple hits, collecting a double besides his triple.
Niskayuna improved to 7-9 with the win. With the victory, the Silver Warriors are likely to advance to the Section II Class AA postseason as the eighth — and possibly last — entry.
“I think we’ve got it, though, nothing is a guarantee,” said Furey, whose team will find out Monday for sure.