ALBANY - The Fonda-Fultonville Braves went from the fifth seed to champion in the Section II Class B postseason baseball tournament last Wednesday.
The Braves had one more task in front of them in order to keep their season alive - playing Class BB champion Schalmont for the right to represent Section II in the Class B state tournament.
Playing a one-game playoff Saturday at Bob Bellizzi Field at the Plumeri Sports Complex of St. Rose College, the Sabres got a two-hit pitching performance from their ace Greg Musk en route to defeating Fonda-Fultonville 8-1 to advance to the regional round of the state tournament.
Fonda-Fultonville's Pat Hart (22) is greeted by Anthony Sinicropi as he returns to the dugout after scoring what would be the Braves' lone run of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning in the Section II Class B-BB playoff game Saturday at the Plumeri Sports Complex at the College of Saint Rose. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Schalmont's Greg Musk dives into second as Fonda-Fultonville shortstop Zack Valachovic receives the throw in the first inning of Saturday's Section II Class B-BB playoff game at the Plumeri Sports Complex at the College of Saint Rose. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
"We play hard," Fonda-Fultonville coach Rick Palumbo said. "Like I told them 95 percent of the time, good pitching is going to beat good hitting, and he [Musk] is as good of a pitcher anybody is going to see. He makes the ball move and he has some pop. He is hard to hit no doubt about it, and they don't make mistakes in the field. They are a good team and very deserving of going on. In my opinion, they are the best team to represent our section."
Schalmont (23-1) advances to play the winner of the game between Section VII champion Saranac and the Section X champion at either SUNY Plattsburgh (Section VII) or St. Lawrence University (Section X) on June 7 at 4:30 p.m.
The Sabres got off to a fast start with Musk leading off the game with a double down the right field line, followed by a bunt single from Dom Toma and a walk by John Pascarella to load the bases.
Fonda-Fultonville starter Baylee Hall almost escaped from the jam, striking out the next two batters before Chris Hamilton legged out an infield single to score Musk and Toma crossed the plate on a wild pitch to stake the Sabres to a 2-0 lead.
The Braves put a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the first when Kevin Myers drew a walk, stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. Zak Shaw also worked his way on with a walk but Musk recorded three strikeouts about the walks to keep the Braves scoreless.
Schalmont picked up two more runs in the top of the second.
With two outs, Musk and Toma both earned walks and came around to score on John Pascarella's triple into the right-field corner to build a 4-0 advantage.
Hall picked up the Braves' first hit of the game, a single, but Fonda-Fultonville could not take advantage of the hit as the Sabres made the defensive plays to keep the Braves off the board.
Fonda-Fultonville got a run back in the bottom of the fourth when Pat Hart drew a one-out walk and stole second. Zack Valachovic hit a hard grounder toward third that was misplayed by third baseman Kevin Paskevich, allowing Hart to score and cut the lead to 4-1.
The Sabres responded quickly, batting around in the top of the fifth to put three runs on the board on three hits and three walks to take a 7-1 lead.
"We got that one run back and it gave us some life, but they shut the door and got a couple more runs," Palumbo said.
Myers picked up the Braves' second hit of the game, a single in the bottom of the fifth, but again the Sabres held tough to keep him from scoring.
Schalmont closed out the scoring in the top of the seventh when Anthony Yezzo led off with a double and was pinch run for by Billy Ryder. Ryder advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Musk's infield single to cap off the 8-1 final score.
Musk finished the game with seven strikeouts on the mound and helped himself at the plate with a double and two singles. Pascarella had a triple and a single and Brian Dufek contributed a pair of singles.
Hall and Myers accounted for the Braves' two hits, both singles.
Hall started on the mound for Fonda-Fultonville and struck out six batters in three innings of work. Hart worked the middle innings before turning the ball over to Shaw to close out the game.
"Baylee got in a little bit of trouble early, but he really didn't pitch bad," Palumbo said. "Then Pat came in and also did a good job, as did Zak. We planned to go 3-2-2 in pitching, but it just didn't work out for us today."
Fonda-Fultonville finished the season with a 13-10 overall record and its first baseball sectional championship in 32 years.
"That was our goal at the beginning of the year, to get to Joe Bruno Stadium," Palumbo said. "They really believed they could win the Class B title and we did. We came in third in our league [Colonial Council], which is a very tough league. They believe that when we go outside our league, we stand a very good chance to win. We had some seniors who provided very good leadership, and I am very proud of them. They believed in themselves, they are scrappy, they hustle and have a good team chemistry. It is a hard group to say goodbye to."
Section II Class B-BB Playoff
Schalmont 8, Fonda-Fultonville 1
Schalmont220 030 1 - 8 10 1
Fonda-Fultonville000 100 0 - 1 -2 0
Musk and Yezzo; Hall, Hart (4), Shaw (6) and Sinicropi.