School baseball: Phillips nears milestone
Craig Phillips is nearing another milestone. Section II’s most successful baseball coach hinted that it may be his last.
“I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do it. I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Phillips, who is beginning his 39th season at Fort Plain. “It’s been a great career.”
It certainly has been.
Phillips has guided Hilltopper teams to 22 league, nine Section II and four regional championships, and his 2007 edition secured the state Class C title. That group won a school-record 27 games, and nine others posted 20 victories or more.
“I’m going to miss the kids. I’m going to miss the game itself. I’m going to miss to umpires, believe it or not. I’ll miss the friendships most of all,” Phillips said. “What I won’t miss is raking the field. Taking snow off the field.”
With the long winter and its aftermath, Fort Plain had to postpone six games before taking the field for its opener last Friday against Mekeel Christian Academy. Fort Plain built a 13-0 lead through two innings before rain halted action at Central Park, and Phillips could be in line for his 700th win when the game resumes Saturday.
Phillips got win No. 697 Monday against Duanesburg, 5-1, and No. 698 Thursday against Herkimer, 4-0. The Hilltoppers meet Canajoharie today.
“It’s a credit to how hard we worked,” Phillips said of his win total. “It’s a combination of outstanding players and outstanding people.”
Phillips’ 600th win came back in April of 2009 when Mark Hanifin and Dan Wiecek joined on a no-hitter in a 15-1 triumph over St. Johnsville. In May of 2004, Phillips reached 500 when his Hilltoppers beat Cobleskill-Richmondville, 8-1.
“It means I did it the right way. Taught fundimentals,” said Phillips, who was inducted into the Capital District Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. “There was only one year when I had great talent, and that team won a state championship. I had a lot of good teams that dedicated themselves so much.”
Last season, Fort Plain went 16-0 in winning the Western Athletic Conference Northern Division title, and finished 19-3 overall after a loss to Voorheesville in the Section II Class C final. The Hilltopper have only one returning senior in Eric Orologio, who pitched a three-hitter against Herkimer.