TROY - To be the champ, you've got to beat the champ.
The Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville baseball team will get its chance to do just that today when it faces defending state Class D champion Fort Ann in the Section II Class D championship game at Joe Bruno Stadium.
"They're the defending state champs, so it's going to be tough," Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville coach Darin Lynch said. "We're going to go out there and play hard, and play to win."
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville’s Nate Trumble throws to the plate during a Section II Class D quarterfinal game against Germantown on May 22 at Soldiers and Sailors Field in St. Johnsville. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Winning is something Fort Ann is quite familiar with, having claimed five of the last seven Section II Class D titles, including the 2012 and 2013 crowns.
The top-seeded Cardinals, who won state titles in 2010 and 2013, are also making their seventh title game appearance in the last eight years.
"We were fortunate enough to get a good seed, so we didn't have to play Fort Ann until the finals," Lynch said. "They're a good team, but we're a pretty good team too. We're going to go out, play our game and see what happens."
Section II Class D Championship
- When: Today, 4 p.m.
- Where: Joe Bruno Stadium, Troy
- The matchup: No. 3 Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville (14-7) vs. No. 1 Fort Ann (11-1)
- What's at stake: The winner will advance to state regional play to face the Section X champion at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam on June 6 at 4 p.m.
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville is ranked 19th in Class D in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association rankings, while Fort Ann is ranked second.
The teams met in the quarterfinal round last year, with Fort Ann posting a 13-1 win. They also met in the 2009 Class D quarterfinals, with Fort Ann claiming a 14-9 victory.
"They beat us last year, but we're a different team, and so are they," Lynch said.
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville (13-6 overall) opened the postseason with a 14-10 win over sixth-seeded Germantown on May 22.
Dylan Klock finished the game with four doubles, three runs scored and three RBIs for the third-seeded Wolves, who had 11 hits in the game. Johnny Vicciarelli finished with two singles and two RBIs for OESJ, while Payten Johnson and Brad Smith had a single and two RBIs apiece.
In Saturday's semifinal contest at East Field in Glens Falls, the Wolves continued their hot hitting, pounding out 15 hits in a 9-2 win over second-seeded Loudonville Christian.
"We've been hitting the ball well," Lynch said. "We've had double-digit hits in five of the last six games."
Smith pitched a four-hitter for Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville against Loudonville Christian.
Klock had three singles and a double for the Wolves, while Johnson and Nick D'Antonino each added a single and a double.
Smith and Joe D'Antonino each added two singles for the Wolves, who have won six of their last seven games.
"Brad [Smith] threw a nice game on Saturday," Lynch said. "Loudonville Christian is a good team."
As the top seed, Fort Ann earned a bye into the semifinals Saturday. The Cardinals posted a 9-2 win over Mekeel Christian Academy, a team that posted a 5-1 win over Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville on April 21.
"We had a couple of early hiccups this season," Lynch said.
After starting the season 4-3, the Wolves are 9-3 in their last 12 games.
Fort Ann is 11-1 overall, suffering its lone loss of the season April 25 at Whitehall, 9-3.
In their semifinal game, the Cardinals put seven runs on the board in the fifth inning on their way to the win.
Chris Jackson had a single, double and two RBIs for Fort Ann, while Seth Godfrey and Kevin Carpenter each had two-run singles.
Jeremy Johnson and Nick Lehoisky each had RBI singles for the Cardinals, and Cameron Stark added a double.
Lynch said he doesn't expect his team to be overwhelmed by playing at Joe Bruno Stadium.
"We played in a pretty nice park in Glens Falls, and my kids rose to the occasion," he said. "I think we'll step up and bring our best. We'll see where the cards fall."
The winner advances to the state regionals to face the Section X champion June 6 at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam at 4 p.m.