TROY - Playing top-seeded Fort Ann, the defending New York State Public High School Class D champion, the Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville baseball team knew it had to bring its "A" game.
The third-seeded Wolves came out swinging, putting two runs on the board in the opening inning and never looking back as they backed up a solid pitching performance from Brad Smith to dethrone Fort Ann 7-1 to take home the Section II Class D championship Thursday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
"These kids play all summer long and work hard," OESJ coach Darin Lynch said. "They are young, mainly sophomore and juniors. We were at third seed and nobody thought we could do this. To come out here and win today means a lot to these kids."
The Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville baseball team poses with its plaque after defeating Fort Ann in the Section II Class D championship game Thursday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville catcher Payten Johnson embraces pitcher Brad Smith after the final out in the Wolves 7-1 victory over Fort Ann to claim the Section II Class D baseball championship Thursday at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville bats were alive in the first inning, with Devan Battisti delivering the big hit, a two-RBI triple to break the Wolves out to a 2-0 lead.
Smith found his pitching rhythm early, holding the Cardinals to hitless through the opening four innings.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack hitters pounded out hits to put up scores in each of the opening four innings to build a 6-0 lead.
OESJ extended its lead to 7-0 in the top of the sixth, with Dylan Klock singling to left and coming around to score on Smith's single.
The Cardinals put together their strongest inning in the top of the sixth.
Chris Jackson and Garrett Bailey hit back-to-back singles and Jeremy Johnson worked the count for a walk to load the bases. Cameron Stark battled Smith through an eight-pitch at bat before receiving a walk to score Jackson to put the score at 6-1. The Wolves ended the threat when Tyler Mayton made a running catch on Seth Godfrey's line drive to retire the side.
Smith locked down the victory, striking out two of the four Fort Ann batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh to get the complete game win.
Klock led the OESJ hitters with three doubles and a single, while Battisti had a triple and a double and Nick D'Antonino doubled and singled.
"These kids have been seeing the ball great lately," Lynch said. "We have had double-digit hits in six of our last seven games. I really don't know what it is. They feed off each other. When Dylan Klock starts hitting, the whole team starts hitting."
Smith struck out six batters in his 3-hit pitching performance.
"I put the ball over the plate and let my fielders make the plays we needed," Smith said. "Our team has worked so hard for this and today we hit, we fielded, we did everything right."
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville advances to the state regionals to play the Section X champion at 4 p.m. June 6 at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
"We deserve it. We have a pretty good team and have worked hard to get here," Smith said. "This win gives us tremendous confidence."
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 7, Fort Ann 1
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville212 101 0 - 7 13 0
Fort Ann000 001 0 - 1 3 2
Smith and Johnson; Mattison, Bailey (3), Lehoisky (7) and Johnson.