SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake baseball team had two big innings at the plate Friday, and the runs proved to be just enough to claim a 6-5 victory over AuSable Valley in Champlain Valley Athletic Conference action.
Saranac Lake scored four times in the bottom of the third to erase an early 2-0 deficit, and then got two more critical runs in the sixth inning to take a 6-3 lead before holding off a Patriots' comeback attempt in their last at-bat. AuSable Valley scored twice in the third and crossed home plate three more times during the final two innings to make it a close finish.
After the game, both teams stood with 4-6 records.
Saranac Lake’s Grant Strack swings at a pitch that he turned into a single during Friday’s home game against AuSable Valley.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Trailing 6-3 in the top of the seventh, the Patriots mounted a two-run rally with two outs and were threatening with runners on second and third. The game, however, ended when Saranac Lake second baseman Jon McCabe snagged a hard grounder on the right side of the infield and threw out AuSable Valley's Roger Preston at first base.
"My heart is still beating hard," Saranac Lake head coach Bryan Munn said about 10 minutes after the contest ended. "When they got one runner on at first with two outs I said 'OK, we'll still get out of this one,' and all of a sudden they are one hit away from taking the lead.
"It was one of those games where the scorebook was nice and clean. Both teams hit the ball, there were basically no errors and it could have gone either way," Munn continued. "We didn't hit the ball as well as we have been, but we got the hits when we needed them."
Saranac Lake entered the game after losing its last two starts, and Munn made a number of defensive player shifts heading into the contest. One big change involved moving junior Derek Thurber from left field to behind the plate, and Munn said he did a great job catching for sophomore pitcher Nicholas McCabe, who threw a solid game in his first start at the varsity level.
"Thurber was a big difference in the game, and I was very impressed with how Nicholas McCabe pitched," Munn said. "He put them right in there and relied on our defense."
The Patriots finished the game with 11 hits and Saranac Lake had nine. Kodie Simpson had a busy day for the Patriots, going the distance on the mound and leading his team at the plate with three singles. Also for AuSable Valley, Dustin Miller and Preston each had two singles, Shane Douglas and Austin Facteau both contributed a double, and Dillon Savage and Sultan Sikandar rapped out a single apiece.
Grant Strack and Thurber paced Saranac Lake at the plate, each with a pair of singles, Logan Wood doubled, and Dylan Gunther, Brad Shumway, Nick Bayruns and Nicholas McCabe chipped in a single apiece in the victory. All but one of the Red Storm's hits came during their key trips to the plate in the third and sixth innings.
AuSable Valley started the game by going three and out in the top of the first inning, and Saranac Lake got off to a great start in the bottom of the frame when Wood led off with a double. Wood reached third on a fielder's choice but was left stranded after the inning ended on a pair of pop flys to second base.
After a scoreless second inning, the Patriots took a 2-0 edge in the top of the third. Sikandar led off with a single and Douglas followed with a double to put runners on the corners. With one out, Nik McDonald drove Sikandar home with a sacrifice. Savage then singled to send Douglas across the plate, before Saranac Lake got out of the inning on an infield ground ball.
The Red Storm answered with four runs in the bottom of the third to gain a 4-2 edge, and got the job done by hitting five singles in the inning. The big hit came off the bat of Shumway, who ripped a two-run single to tie the game. Strack then slid home on a passed ball to give the Red Storm their first lead, and Thurber scored Saranac Lake's fourth run of the inning after reaching base with a single.
AuSable Valley made it a 4-3 game in the sixth when Simpson reached home, but Saranac Lake responded again, scoring twice in its next at-bat to go up 6-3 on runs from Strack and Bayruns. Connor Kennedy and Savage scored the Patriots two runs in the top of the seventh, but they couldn't come up with one more to tie the contest.
Nicholas McCabe pitched six innings to earn the win. He struck two and didn't walk any batters. Simpson struck out four and also gave up no walks while taking the loss.
"We're really starting to hit the ball," AuSable Valley head coach Randy Douglas said. "With a few less mistakes, and with a few more balls dropping in there today, it could have been a different outcome. I'm happy with everything the kids did today.
"Two weeks ago, we were averaging 13 strikeouts a game, but now we're coming on with our bats," Douglas added. "If we keep hitting like this, we should be a force to contend with in the Class C sectionals."
"It was a big game for us as far as this point in the season moving forward," Munn said. "The win was a confidence booster for us. It's kind of been an up and down year, and we are going into an important part of the season with the playoffs closing in. We have some tough games coming up."
Saranac Lake has one of those difficult tasks in store today when it hosts Class B foe Peru starting at 10 p.m. The Indians lead the CVAC with a 9-1 record.
Saranac Lake 6, AuSable Valley 5
Simpson and Savage. N. McCabe, Fitzgerald (7) and Thurber. WP - McCabe. LP - Simpson. 2B - Douglas (AV), Facteau (AV), Wood (SL).