Adirondack scores twice late to advance to state baseball semifinals
SYRACUSE — For five innings on Saturday, Adirondack and Lansing had a scoreless pitchers' duel. In the sixth, Lansing finally got a run. Then Adirondack got two. And that was enough for Colin White, who retired the last Lansing batter on his 101st pitch of the game.
Adirondack, the team that won the Section III Class C baseball title as the 11-seed Tuesday, defeated Section IV's champion 2-1 at Onondaga Community College to advance to the state semifinals.
Adirondack improved to 13-11. The loss ended the Bobcats' season at 16-6.
"We've seen some good ones throughout the year, especially in the Center State Conference," said Adirondack head coach Phil Puleo of quality starting pitching from opposing teams. He said the plan was to "get runs early, but it became a pitchers' duel." So he told the hitters to look for early fastballs, otherwise they'd have to contend with Zack Sperger's devastating curveball. Sperger, a junior, is committed to Division I college baseball at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Both starting pitchers were dominant all game, with only one hit for each team through five innings.
In the top of the sixth, Carson Crandall singled for the second time for Lansing, driving in Ben Petrich, who had been hit by a pitch to open the inning.
Adirondack tied the game immediately. White singled to open the inning and moved over on a sacrifice bunt. When Jake Khouri hit one to shortstop, the throw to third was just high and the tag didn't quite get White. Bailey Gleasman stepped up and singled into left centerfield to score White and tie the game at 1-1. With two outs, Gabe Cihocki sent a single into centerfield to score Khouri and give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
"We've played a lot of small ball," said Puleo. Case in point: Wildcats' cleanup hitter Brett Sanford was the one who bunted White over to second in the sixth. After that, Puleo said, it was "timely hits." He added: "Bailey Gleasman and Gabe Cihocki came up huge."
White went the distance for Adirondack, allowing one run in seven innings on two hits and three walks. He struck out five. "If you have your guy, you go with your guy," Puleo said of his decision to start White. He noted that starter Max Weiler and Sanford, the closer, were ready to pitch as well.
White had only two strikeouts in the first five innings, but he said it didn't matter. "I'm very comfortable with my team behind me making plays."
The junior, who also started and won the Section III championship game, started the sixth inning rally as well. He said bottom of the Wildcats' lineup "picked us up big," coming through in the seventh in a similar situation to the one those same hitters couldn't turn into runs in the second. Adirondack had loaded the bases with no outs in the second but the next three batters all went down without producing any runs. "Gabe Cihocki had a big hit," he said of the redemption opportunity for the fellow junior. Cihocki had bunted in that second inning, but the out was recorded at home on the play.
Cihocki said his approach late in the game was simple: "Just hit the ball. That's about it. I'm just trying to get the ball in play." And while he said he was "feeling excitement" after driving in the go-ahead run, he added, "we still have to play another inning."
Sperger also threw a complete game, allowing two earned runs on five hits and a walk. He also hit two batters. He struck out seven.
The Wildcats are close to equalling the program's best performance in a season. In 1986, Adirondack got to the state finals.
Adirondack will play Section II's Chatham at 7 p.m. on Friday at Binghamton University in the state semifinals.
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