SARANAC LAKE - It would take more than one hand to count the number of times Saranac Lake's baseball players have seen late-game leads turn into heartbreaking losses this season. But Friday wasn't one of those occasions.
Playing for the final time at home, the Red Storm erased an early deficit, then held Beekmantown scoreless over the final four innings to claim a 6-3 win over the slumping Eagles.
A week ago, Beekmantown was the only unbeaten team left in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference but the Eagles have since dropped three straight to fall to 8-3. Saranac Lake improved to 6-8 with the win and will play its last regular season game on the road Tuesday against Plattsburgh.
After making a diving grab to snare a hard grounder, Saranac Lake second baseman Ty Curry tosses the ball to first base to put out a Beekmantown batter in third inning of Friday’s game.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Lake’s Jon LaPierre reaches third base safely while Beekmantown’s Quenton Barber leaps to grab a high throw during the sixth inning of Friday’s game. Also pictured watching the action is Red Storm head coach Bill Wilson.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
A host of players made key contributions for the Red Storm at the plate and in the field. On the mound, ace lefty pitcher Matt Phelan gave up just four hits in six innings of work to earn the win, and Trent Fitzgerald came in for the seventh and faced just four batters while picking up the save.
Infielders Dylan Gunther, Ty Curry and Jon McCabe all made sparkling plays on defense for the Red Storm, and on offense, six different players crossed the plate for Saranac Lake's runs. After missing most of the season, senior Jon LaPierre sparked a three-run fourth inning for the Red Storm with a single that knocked in two runs, Logan Wood notched a pair of RBI and Nick Bayruns also batted in a run.
"Defensively, I thought our kids did a great job," Saranac Lake head coach Bill Wilson said. "We've cut the errors right down to one or two a game, and that's a complete turnaround from early in the season. I think we are all coming together at the right time with the playoffs just around the corner."
Phelan did get off to a tough start by giving up two runs in the first inning. He walked Beekmantown's first two batters, Brandon Buksa and Adam Goldfarb, and Austin Bradish advanced the runners with a sacrifice to the infield. Cleanup hitter Logan Recor then swatted a 2 RBI single for a 2-0 Eagles lead.
Beekmantown starter Keon Jahanbakhsh fanned Wood and Gunther to start the bottom of the first, but the Red Storm then strung together three straight singles to score one run. Phelan, Grant Strack and Bayruns got the hits, with Bayruns' single to right field pushing Phelan across the plate to cut the Eagles edge to 2-1.
After a scoreless second inning, Goldfarb notched his second run of the contest in the third for a 3-1 Beekmantown lead, but that proved to be the last time the visitors reached home.
Trailing 3-1, Saranac Lake took advantage of two walks and a pair of clutch singles to score three runs in the fourth inning to claim a 4-3 edge. In the frame, Strack led off with a walk, Bayruns followed with a single and Curry walked to load the bases. Batting seventh in the order, LaPierre then rapped a bouncing single in the gap to centerfield to score Strack and Bayruns to tie the game. Wood later followed with a two-out single to send Curry home with the go-ahead run as the Red Storm jumped on top 4-3.
Beekmantown threatened in the top of the sixth by getting runners at second and third with one out and then loading the bases with two outs but failed to score. After getting out of that situation still holding a one-run lead, Saranac Lake tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth when LaPierre and Fitzgerald scored to give their team a 6-3 edge. Fitzgerald then came on to pitch the seventh and was successful. He walked the lead-off batter, but then got the next three out on a pair of fly balls to the outfield and a strikeout.
"Matt still looked strong, but he was high in the pitch count with over 100, so we brought Trent into the game for the seventh," Wilson said. "By bringing a righty in, we gave Beekmantown a different look. Having Trent in there made all the difference."
In additon to giving up just four hits, Phelan struck out eight batters. Jahanbakhsh struck out five before giving way to Seth Pelkey in the sixth inning. Bayruns finished with two of Saranac Lake's six hits, both singles. Beekmantown got the game's only two extra-base hits, with Goldfarb doubling in the second inning and Bradish hitting a triple in the fifth.
For the third game in a row, the Eagles were without their top player Luke Weaver, who Beekmantown coach Mike Bennett described as one of the best in the league. The Eagles were also missing another key hitter, Tavon Ford-Relation, for Friday's matchup.
"Since Luke's been out of the lineup, we've gone 0-3," Bennett said. "We haven't hit the ball and we're making mistakes; lots of mistakes. We started the season at 8-0, but things have turned around in a hurry. We should have both those guys back on Monday."
For Curry, LaPierre and catcher Steve Rodriguez, Friday marked the final time the three seniors were playing on their home diamond.
"This was definitely a team effort on senior day," Rodriguez said. "It took everybody - sophomores, juniors and seniors - to get the job done, but it took a senior to get us going when Jon (LaPierre) got that big hit.
"This is a big win for us," Rodriguez added. "They came back to beat us last time and we beat them today. That's how the league has been this year. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day."
Beekmantown next plays a doubheader Monday at home with a pair of five-inning make-up games against AuSable Valley and Moriah. After defeating Plattsburgh at home, Saranac Lake will look to sweep the Hornets in its regular-season finale Tuesday.
Saranac Lake 6, Beekmantown 3
|Eagles||201 000 0 — 3 4 1|
|Red Storm||100 302 X — 6 7 2|
Jahanbakhsh, Pelkey (6) and Rabideau. Phelan, Fitzgerald (7) and Rodriguez. WP - Phelan. LP - Jahanbakhsh. 2B - Goldfarb (B). 3B - Bradish (B).