Bob Anderson broke down Schalmont’s fantastic season into simple terms.
“We pitch. We play defense. We score enough runs,” said the veteran baseball coach. “That’s been our style all year.”
Do that two more times, and the Sabres will cap what has already been their greatest campaign with a state Class B championship.
The Sabres (24-1) will bring a 20-game winning streak into Saturday’s state semifinal game at 1 against Clinton (Section III, 18-5) at Binghamton University. Rye Neck (Section I, 24-1-1) and Livonia (Section V, 24-1) meet at 10 in the morning, and the winners collide for the title at 4.
“They’re excited,” said Anderson. “This spring, they wanted to take it a step farther, and they did, but they’re not satisfied. All they keep saying is, ‘Two more to go.’ They’re very focused on that.”
Schalmont lost to Ogdensburg Free Academy, 3-1, in a 2013 regional final in nine innings, and delivered some payback by beating OFA Saturday in a rematch, 11-2. Clinton earned a return trip to the state final four by beating Susquehanna Valley in regional play, 3-2.
“Clinton worked just as hard to get here, as well as the other teams,” said Anderson. “It’s going to be a challenge. You never know how things are going to turn out, but I do know this group will leave it all on the field.
“We’ve had an unbelievable two-year run, and it would be nice to end it with a state championship.”
Aside from its winning streak, Schalmont has another impressive run going heading into the final four. The Sabres’ pitching staff has not allowed an earned run in the postseason, beating Cairo-Durham and Albany Academy by 4-0 scores, topping Johnstown in the Section II Class BB final, 6-1, and beating Fonda-Fultonville in the Class BB-B playoff, 8-1, before its regional breakthrough against OFA.
“Our pitching has been unbelievable,” said Anderson. “I’ve never had kids put up numbers like this.”
Greg Musk (8-0) and Matt Capovani (8-1) combined for those five playoff wins, with Musk hurling two-hitters against OFA and Fonda-Fultonville, and Capovani firing a two-hitter against Johnston.
Anderson also has Nick Bird (5-0) to call on.
“Clinton has some pretty hefty batting averages. They jump off the page,” said Anderson. “Our strength is pitching. Hopefully, we’ll be able to combat that offense.”
Clinton showed its potency in the Section III tournament when it outscored four opponents, 58-30, capped by a 14-7 win over Frankfort-Schuyler. Clinton batting leader Andrew Taft (.530) hit a three-run triple in that game, and Lebby Ortiz hit a three-run double.
“Taft is not your typical leadoff hitter. He’s a 6-4 catcher. He was getting a lot of intentional walks, so they moved him up,” said Anderson. “We’ve got to keep him off the bases.”
Jake Defayette was on base three times in the OFA game with a triple, two doubles and three RBI. Anthony Yezzo had a three-run triple, and Brion Dufek and Schalmont batting leader Dom Toma (.485) both had a pair of hits to back Musk.
Musk struck out 12 to set a Schalmont single-season record with 95. The senior lefty also has a school one-season record with five shutouts. His ERA is 0.23, and Capovani’s ERA is 0.69.
On the offensive side, Schalmont is batting .319 as a team, and has stolen 73 bases in 76 attempts.
“I’ve got a good feeling,” said Anderson.
Jon Hardy (7-2) and Alex Dobrzenski (6-0) are Clinton’s pitching leaders. Dobrzenski, Taft and Ortiz are among nine returning players from the Clinton team that lost to Fredonia in last year’s state final, 7-0.
Shenendehowa, Averill Park and Hoosic Valley will also see state final four action Saturday, each playing a semifinal at 1. Shenendehowa (23-1) and Ketcham (Section I, 23-3) meet in a Class AA semifinal at Maine-Endwell High School, Averill Park (14-11) and Rye (Section I, 22-4) square off in a Class A game at Union-Endicott High School, and Hoosic Valley
(22-3) and Seton Catholic (Section IV, 18-7) meet in a Class C contest at Concol Field.
Seton Catholic won the 2013 state Class C title. Hoosic Valley will be trying for another state title after its boys’ basketball team went the distance this past winter.
“I think it says a lot about the Suburban Council, having us in the Class AA final four and Averill Park in the Class A final four,” said Shenendehowa coach Greg Christodulu, who has the Plainsmen in their first semifinal since 1996. “Having four teams there, it also says something about Section II baseball.”