BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — CLIFTON PARK — An RBI double, a steal of third base and a sprint home after a wild throw.
That was the pivotal sequence Shenendehowa baseball senior shortstop Nick Jacques delivered for the Plainsmen in the fourth inning of their 3-1 Suburban Council win Monday against Niskayuna. Shenendehowa’s leadoff man helped generate a pair of runs in a way head coach Greg Christodulu hopes becomes an every-game thing for his club.
“We’re a fast team overall,” Christodulu said. “We want to manufacture runs to help our pitching staff. We’re trying to score first and then help our staff as much as possible.”
Last season, Shenendehowa’s inconsistency on offense played a major part in the reigning league champions upset loss in the Section II Class AA title game to Saratoga Springs. With a deep pitching staff again in 2016, the Plainsmen see Jacques’ ability at the top of the team’s lineup as a key ingredient in making sure they don’t slip up this season.
“His speed sets him apart,” Christodulu said of Jacques, who played at La Salle Institute last year. “He’s a good baserunner, but when he gets it going, he is as fast a kid as there is in our league.”
Jacques went 1-for-3 in the Shenendehowa (2-0, 2-1) victory, while senior center fielder Kevin Huerter went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Junior second baseman Angelo Spataro was 1-for-4 with a solo home run for Niskayuna (0-1, 0-1) in its season-opening defeat.
Spataro was one of six juniors in Niskayuna’s starting batting lineup, while junior Nick Insognia started on the mound and took the loss after striking out six and allowing two earned runs in 31⁄3 innings. Head coach John Furey has expressed optimism about the youthful look Niskayuna — which also started sophomore Alec Ritzenthaler at designated hitter — has this season, but wasn’t willing to accept playing highly regarded Shenendehowa close as a moral victory.
“We had a game that we could have won, but we didn’t,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. We need to win a game like that, and I don’t care if it’s against Shenendehowa.”
Niskayuna only managed four hits — so, too, did Shenendehowa — but Furey’s issue with his team’s play Monday was its inability to make the most of high-leverage situations. Like in the first inning, when junior center fielder Conor Graham — this season’s replacement at the position for Garrett Whitley, now in the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league system — led off the game with a double and never advanced.
“We can be a better team than that,” Furey said.
Niskayuna 000 010 0 — 1 4 1
Shenendehowa 010 200 x — 3 4 1
Insognia, Kerr (4) and Toy; Forsell, Cady (4), Malachowski (7) and Gillooley.
Niskayuna had received a reprieve for the contest, as Shenendehowa senior pitcher Ian Anderson — a projected first-round pick in this year’s Major League Baseball amateur draft — missed his expected start with an illness. Instead, juniors Kurt Forsell and John Cady combined to allow one earned run in recording the first 20 outs for Shenendehowa before senior Nik Malachowski earned the save with a strikeout to close the game.
“We’re hoping [Anderson] gets the start Wednesday against Guilderland,” Christodulu said. “He wanted to come and support the team today, but we told him he had to stay home.”
Cady earned the win for Shenendehowa in relief of Forsell. In three innings of action, Cady struck out five Silver Warriors and allowed Spataro’s home run.
Shenendehowa scored all three of its runs before Niskayuna’s lone blast. Huerter lined an RBI single to center field in the second inning, and Jacques producing his RBI and run scored in the fourth.
Jacques credited his team’s pitchers for allowing his contribution to hold up as the difference in the game.
“Without the stud pitching we had from Kurt and John today, I wouldn’t have been in that position,” he said.