Phillips gets 800th career victory

Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips, far right, poses with his team after recording his 800th career victory on Tuesday. The Hilltoppers defeated Mayfield, 17-4, at Mayfield Elementary School. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

MAYFIELD — Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips reached another career milestone in a career already full of them.

The longtime Hilltoppers’ coach earned his 800th career victory as his team rolled to a 17-4 Western Athletic Conference victory over Mayfield at Mayfield Elementary School on Tuesday.

In his 46th year as coach, Phillips became the first baseball coach among New York State Public High School Athletic Association schools to reach the 800-win mark.

“Who would have thought back in 1975 when Fort Plain gave me a chance that I’d get 1,000 wins in baseball and basketball,” the 70-year-old Phillips said. “It’s because of the coaches and the kids, and all of the support from the school and the community. It’s been a great career.”

With the milestone looming, Fort Plain quickly erased any doubt that it would need to wait another day, as it jumped out to a 15-0 lead after two innings.

Troy Butler led the Hilltoppers with a solo home run, two singles, two RBIs and three runs scored, while Griffin MacGinnis had a single, double and scored two runs. Stephen Gray and Evan Crouse each had two singles and an RBI for Fort Plain, while Austin VanGorder had a double and three RBIs.

Crouse and Nalzon Henry combined on a two-hitter for the Hilltoppers.

For Mayfield., Zach Becker had a two-run single, Cam Abdella had a single and Zach Ginter added an RBI sacrifice fly.

Like many coaches, Mayfield coach Zach Cast has had the opportunity to both play and coach against Phillips.

“It’s kind of cool to be part of this. He’s a good coach and his teams are always good,” he said.

In high school, Cast’s team posted a win over Phillips’ Hilltoppers, which put him in line to be part of Tuesday’s milestone.

“The 800th win would have been yesterday if we hadn’t beaten them when I was in high school,” Cast said with a laugh.

The latest milestone joins the list of many that Fort Plain has achieved under Phillips. In his time as coach, the Hilltoppers have won 25 league championships (Tri-Valley League and Western Athletic Conference), 12 Section II titles, six regional crowns and state championships in 2007 (Class C) and 2016 (Class D).

Phillips, who is a member of the Capital District Baseball Hall of Fame, even made a rare appearance as third-base coach for Tuesday’s contest.

“The coaches would say I did it because I wanted to get on TV,” Phillips said. “They were right.”

As he often has said during his tenure, Phillips is saying this year is likely to be his last.

“It’s going to be tough to stay away from it,” Phillips said. “I think you all understand why. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are best for your family.”

However, for each of the past 46 seasons, Philips has always returned to the Hilltoppers.

If it actually is his final season, the Fort Plain coach is hoping to go out with another sectional title.

“I love to compete in the sectionals. It’s a blast,” he said. “That’s the best time of the year, playing in the sectionals.”

Fort Plain (6-0 overall, 6-0 WAC) is scheduled to travel to Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville today for a 4:30 p.m. contest.

Mayfield (0-7 overall, 0-7 WAC) is scheduled to host Middleburgh on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Fort Plain 17, Mayfield 4

Fort Plain 780 11 — 17 14 3

Mayfield 000 22 — 4 3 6

Crouse, Henry (4) and Paradiso, VanGorder (4); Evens, Cook (2) and Ginter.

By Paul Wager