Fort Plain claims Class C crown

Fort Plain’s Brady Fureno dives back to first as the ball gets away from Hoosick Falls first baseman Blaine Michaels on a first-inning pickoff attempt during Saturday’s Section II Class C championship game at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

TROY — The classification may have changed but the result was still the same; The Fort Plain Hilltoppers are sectional champions.

Fueled by a 14 strikeout performance by junior John Cortese, the Hilltoppers defeated Hoosick Falls 10-0 in six innings to capture the Section II Class C championship Saturday at Joe Bruno Stadium on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College.

Fort Plain, the 2016 and 2018 Class D champion, advances to regional play and will face Section X champion Norwood-Norfolk at 5 p.m. Thursday at Canton High School.

“There is something about Fort Plain kids; they are never satisfied,” Fort Plain coach Craig Phillips said. “The want to get to the state tournament. They set the goal and that is what they wanted and we got a chance to get back and a chance at states.”

The Hilltoppers (20-0) won the 2016 Class D state championship and was runner-up in the 2018 state tournament before being increased enrollment moved Fort Plain up to Class C.

Looking to continue their string of postseason upsets, Hoosick Falls threatened early, when Sam Richard led off the game with a walk and Ryan Bloomer followed with a double to put runners of second and third with no outs.

However, the Panthers could not put a run across the plate as Cortese struck out the next three batters to get out of the jam.

The junior right-hander continued to control the game, striking out five of the next six batters he faced, allowing a walk to Evan Webster, who was later erased from the base path by catcher Brady Fureno as he attempted to steal second.

The Hilltoppers gave Cortese support in the bottom of the third, when Jaxson Yacowenia led off with a triple and scored when Troy Butler’s grounder to short was misplayed.

After Bryce Thibodeau singled, Taylor Gifford delivered a two-out single to score Butler and Thibodeau and stake the Hilltoppers to a 3-0 lead.

The Panthers looked to get a run back as Max Kipp led off with a single , went to second on a passed ball and took third on a wild pitch.

Again Cortese settled down and struck out the next three batters, stranding Kipp at third.

Yacowenia again got the Fort Plain offense rolling, leading off the bottom of the fourth with a single and stealing second before going to third on a wild pitch.

With the infield drawn in, Butler singled to score Yacowenia and put Fort Plain up 4-0. Fureno followed with a single before Cortese doubled to score Tyler Vogel, who pinch ran for Butler. Nate Buley followed with a sacrifice fly and Nellis added an RBI single to extend the Hilltoppers’ lead to 7-0.

Hoosick Falls again threatened in the top of the fifth as Webster walked and Isaac Humphrey singled before Cortese struck out the next two batters only to have Bloomer work his way on with a walk to load the bases.

Cortese again got out of the jam recording his 14th strike out against 21 batters faced.

Fort Plain extended its lead to 8-0 when Butler doubled with two outs and scored on Fureno’s RBI single.

Hoosick Falls again put runners on in the top of the sixth before Nellis came on in relief of Cortese and picked up a strike out before Webster lined a shot toward short that Yacowenia caught and tagged Jake Sparks for an unassisted double play, and the first outs of the game recorded by a Fort Plain field player other than the caught stealing in the second inning.

The Hilltoppers closed out the game in the bottom of the sixth when Ethan Schoch led off with a pinch-hit single . Zack Reid worked his way on with a walk and Dawson Nare singled to load the bases with one out.

Yacowenia walked to score Schoch before Butler poked a single through the right side of the infield to put the score at 10-0 and the umpires called the game complete, giving Fort Plain its 12th sectional title. It was also Fort Plain’s third 10-0 shortened game in four postseason games this year.

“I still believe the Cs are tougher than the Ds and we had to play three Wasaren League teams,” Phillips, who recorded his 797th career win, said. “They play in a very competitive league. This was very fortunate. We have great pitching and play very good defense. Defense is the key to our success and when you get great pitching like Johnny gave us today, we only had to figure out how to get seven more outs some other way, and we didn’t even have go that far. It is just a great win and I don’t care what league you are in, going 20-0 is a pretty good accomplishment.”

Section II Class C Championship

Fort Plain 10, Hoosick Falls 0

Hoosick Falls 000 000 — 0 4 2

Fort Plain 003 412 — 10 13 0

Webster, Sparks (5) and Hodges; Cortese, Nellis (6) and Fureno.

By Paul Wager

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