BY ANDREW PUGLIESE
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — Between delays from weather and graduation, it took nine days for the Niskayuna Baseball League’s Babe Ruth Championship to be played.
For fans and players alike, today’s game was worth the wait.
Upside Collective defeated Dental Offices in Blatnick Park 6-5 behind a 3-for-3 day by Alec Ritzenthaler, which included a two-run home run in the bottom of the six that put the home team ahead for good in a contest that featured four lead changes.
“I was looking for a fastball,” Alec Ritzenthaler said. “He doesn’t really throw that hard, so I had to stay back. But, I just hit the ball.”
Dental Offices reached the championship game despite entering the playoffs as the fifth — and final — seed in the tournament field. The game’s visitors had to defeat Chao Plastic Surgery in a play-in game before upsetting top-seed LT’s Grill in the semifinals to set up a date with No. 2-seed Upside Collective.
An RBI triple by Dylan Sheeley bringing home Chris Ryan helped Dental Offices jump out to 1-0 lead in the top of the first. But, it was quickly erased by Upside Collective, via two runs in the bottom half of the frame when Ritzenthaler tripled and scored on a passed ball, then Tim Schaffer knocked in Ben Funyak.
Ritzenthaler was in the lead off spot for Upside on Saturday. He understood that it was important for him to come up and do what he did offensively after his team got down early.
“It felt really good. I felt our players got up and excited, and it set the tone for the rest of the game,” he said.
Upside Collective’s Jack LoRe hit a RBI single, bringing home Zach Fredenberg, in the bottom of the second to expand his team’s lead. However, in the top of the fourth, Dental Offices came up with a rally of its own by taking advantage of some miscues by Upside Collective in the field.
The home side recorded the first two outs of the inning without allowing a runner to get into scoring position. But, by inning’s end, Ryan and Sheeley crossed the plate on errors and Mike Zigler came home on a passed ball to give Dental Offices a 4-3 edge after three and a half.
Dental Offices’ Matt Toy singled in the fourth and that ended up being the team’s third and final hit of the game.
Sam Mora was behind the plate for Upside Collective and saw the impact of the team’s effective pitching performances.
“It was very important,” Mora said. “All of them were throwing strikes. They were throwing well, getting ground outs and just getting outs in general. It was good play.”
The team’s traded runs in the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth as Mora scored on LoRe’s sac fly and Dental Offices’ Jack Evans scored on an error. Upside finished the game with seven errors.
Ritzenthaler’s home run in the bottom half of the inning was the deciding factor in the game as Dental Offices was unable to get a runner past first base in the top of the seventh.
Despite falling behind three times, Upside Collective’s head coach Glenn Ritzenthaler continued to believe his team had what it took to win the game.
“I’m fairly confident in the guys,” he said. “They hit the ball. They swing the bats, and that’s what we like. We like to see good hard play.”