BY MICHAEL KELLY
BALLSTON SPA — For clubs that haven’t been there in years and teams fighting back from slow starts, it’s not too early to be eyeing the May 16 seeding meeting for the Section II baseball playoffs.
“I mean, we talked about that back in December,” Ballston Spa head coach Curtis Nobles said after his team’s 13-3 win Friday against Niskayuna. “That’s one of the goals we set. In the short-term, it was to get in.”
A fantastic start to Friday’s Suburban Council game inched Ballston Spa closer to hitting the minimum of eight league wins it needs to clinch a spot in this year’s Class AA field. The Scotties (5-1, 6-1) scored 11 of their runs between the first and second innings, as the early-season surprise of the Suburban Council again used timely hitting and top-notch base-running to separate itself quickly from another league foe.
“We try to attack teams early, then tack on late,” said Nobles, whose squad added two runs in the fifth inning. “That’s been our recipe thus far.”
“When we put pressure on defenses, we know we have a good shot at winning games,” said Ballston Spa center fielder Zach Durfee, who went 3-for-5 with five RBIs.
Niskayuna 102 000 0 — 3 7 4
Ballston Spa 740 020 x — 13 12 1
Ritzenthaler, Phillips (2), Sheely (5) and Toy. DeVito, Micare (5), Williams (6), Gawrys (7) and Graham.
Ballston Spa put plenty of pressure on Niskayuna (2-5, 2-5) early in their matchup. After the Silver Warriors opened up a 1-0 lead to start the game, Ballston Spa played small-ball to score seven runs in its half of the first inning. The Scotties stole a couple bases in the first and took advantage of a couple Niskayuna miscues to forge ahead, with Durfee providing a three-RBI double to plate the frame’s final runs.
“They run very effectively, man,” Niskayuna head coach John Furey said. “They do a great job on the bases. They’re very impressive.”
In that pivotal first inning, Ballston Spa only managed to send three of its six hits to the outfield. Besides Niskayuna’s two errors, the Scotties also beat out three infield singles to support a big inning despite no earned runs being charged to Silver Warriors starting pitcher Alec Ritzenthaler.
“The kid did a great job. He pitched well. He had his stuff, and they were struggling with his curveball,” Furey said of Ritzenthaler. “But we’ve got to get behind him better.”
“It’s really tough knowing your pitcher is throwing strikes — doing all he can — and the field is letting him down,” said Niskayuna shortstop Liam Davison, who went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored a run on teammate Nick Insognia’s two-run home run in the third inning.
Ritzenthaler was removed in the second inning and took the loss despite not allowing an earned run, while Ballston Spa’s Jake DeVito earned the win with four innings of work. Leading the Ballston Spa offense besides Durfee was right fielder Josh Thompson with a 3-for-3 performance that included a walk, two runs scored and an RBI.
Furey said the way Niskayuna lost the game was disappointing, but the coach was pleased with his team’s week in which it went 2-1 in league play after an 0-4 start to the season.
“You do still take it one game at a time, but also one week at a time,” Furey said. “We needed a 2-for-3 week this week. . . . Now we’ve got a big week next week with four more games.”
One day at a time is how the Silver Warriors need to approach that stretch, Davison said.
“Right now, we’re not at a point where we want to limit ourselves,” he said. “We want to win as many as possible each week.”
The same goes for Ballston Spa, which could secure its first bid to sectionals since 2013 as early as next week if it wins three of its next four league games. More important, Durfee said, is for the Scotties to further solidify itself as one of the top contenders for this year’s sectional crown.
“We’re all in a position we haven’t been in before,” Durfee said. “But you’ve got to go out and prove it every day.”