Butler’s gem caps Spartans’ big week
BURNT HILLS Joey Butler was nearly unhittable. Mike Slingerland had a big hit, and then an even bigger one.
Behind the two new starters, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake beat Averill Park in a Suburban Council game Friday, 12-0, and capped a productive week of baseball that pushed the Spartans to the brink of the Section II playoffs.
The victory was a bounce-back after Thursday’s 6-4 loss to Bethlehem. Burnt Hills (3-2, 4-2) rallied past reigning Section II Class AA champion Columbia Wednesday, 7-6, and edged Saratoga Springs Monday, 2-1.
“We were up early against Bethlehem, and they hit the ball. They beat us, and we rebounded,” said first-year Spartans coach Rob Duell. “I told the guys we have the potential to have a big week if we can get this one. The kids came through.”
Butler was stellar in his first varsity start with a one-hitter, and Slingerland broke the game open with a two-run single in the third inning before he launched a grand slam in the fourth. Slingerland went 3-for-3 with seven RBI, adding a walk in the second and an RBI single in the sixth that made it 12-0.
“We like where we’re at right now. Let’s build on it,” said Slingerland, a senior designated hitter. “We’ve got the momentum rolling, and we want to carry it.”
In the Section II playoff formula, Burnt Hills this week picked up five of the eight points it needs to qualify for the Class A tournament.
“This was a really good week for us. Any time you go 3-1 in the Suburban Council, it’s awsome,” said Duell.
“This week got us in a nice rhythm. The way we’re playing now, we can beat anyone out there,” said Butler. “We’ve got a good rotation, the hitting is coming together and we’re playing defense.”
Butler sent down 18 consecutive batters after an error to start the contest. Ben Reinisch broke up the junior righty’s no-hit bid with an infield single leading off the seventh, and, after a forceout and an error, Butler recorded the last two of his seven strikeouts.
“He pitched two innings in the Saratoga game and got the save. He threw the ball unbelievably well, and I was confident in him,” said
Duell. “He throws strikes with three different pitches. Did I think he was going to do that? Not necessarily.”
“I was definitely nervous all day in school. I did well closing, but starting is a whole different thing,” said Butler, a member of BH-BL’s state champion football team and the school’s all-time wrestling wins leader. “Once I started to warm up, I felt really good, and it all came together in the game.
“My catcher [Tom Moore] did a great job. I only shook him off once.”
Butler threw 78 pitches and hurled 18 first-pitch strikes at the Warriors (2-4, 2-6).
“He was pitching ahead and pitching at the knees,” said Duell.
“He was on today, spot on,” said Slingerland. “He was getting ahead of batters and hitting his spots.”
Slingerland staked Butler to a 5-0 lead with his two-out, two-run single in the third, and his two-out grand slam down the left-field line made it 10-0 in the fourth.
“It’s a great feeling. No doubt about that,” said Slingerland.
Slingerland got his first crack at the designated hitter role in the Columbia game. He made the varsity roster as a pitcher.
“He takes batting practice every day, and he had a couple of good at-bats against Columbia,” said Duell. “I gave him a shot to swing today.”
Moore doubled deep to center in the second and scored BH-BL’s first run on a wild pitch. The Spartans sent 10 batters to the plate in the third, and Ryan McDonnell had an RBI single among their four hits. Steve Perone hit an RBI single in the fourth just before Slingerland’s grand slam, and Paul Rockwell hit an RBI single in the sixth before Slingerland’s last blow.
Robbie Knightes had two singles, two stolen bases and two runs scored for the Spartans. The St. John’s-bound shortstop hit a two-out single and stole second to kick-start BH-BL’s four-run third. Dan Nuzzi followed with a single and Knightes raced home on a throwing error.
Knightes singled and stole second to begin BH-BL’s five-run fourth.
Averill Park 000 000 0 — 0 1 4
BH-BL 014 502 x — 12 11 2
Tomlinson, VanderVoort (3), Gray (5) and Arnold, Apple (5); Butler and Moore.