Surge swing into hit parade

SARANAC LAKE — Two shutouts followed by a shootout.

That’s how the first three games of the Saranac Lake Surge-Plattsburgh Thunderbirds series has played out this week at the Petrova Avenue Field.

On Thursday, Saranac Lake grabbed a 2-1 edge in the six-game series, and it took a walk-off two-run double by Alexander LaFayette with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Surge to a 17-16 victory in Empire Professional Baseball League action.

Saranac Lake won Tuesday’s series opener 7-0, Plattsburgh turned the tables Wednesday to claim a 6-0 win, and the Surge survived to pull out the next matchup after watching a nine-run lead turn into a 16-15 deficit heading into their final at-bat.

“A couple bad innings, and next thing you know it was tied up,” LaFayette said. “It was an up and down game. We had our highs and we had our lows and it was good to end it with another high”

Both teams certainly made up for their lack of scoring on the two previous days. The Surge piled up most of their runs early, jumping out to a 13-4 lead just four innings into the game. The Thunderbirds then came alive late, scoring 11 runs during the final three innings to make it a nail-biter down the stretch.

Trailing 13-4, Plattsburgh began to mount a rally. The Thunderbirds scored once in the sixth inning, and then erupted for six runs in the top of the seventh to cut their deficit to 13-11. The Surge responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame to grab an 15-11, and the Thunderbirds answered by sending four more runners across the plate in the top of the eighth deadlock the score.

Saranac Lake then went down in order, and Plattsburgh scored one more time in the top of the ninth to lead for the first time at 16-15, which ultimately set the stage for LaFayette’s late game heroics.

There were, however, some more heroics needed prior to LaFayette’s clutch at-bat just to put Saranac Lake in position to win. It all started two batters earlier, when outfielder Jesse Russo, as well as the Surge, were a missed swing away from a one-run loss. Facing a two-strike count with two outs, Russo rapped out a single to get on base. Tyler Hill was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, and LaFayette then stepped up the plate and drove home his teammates with his long shot to right center.

Russo crossed the plate with the tying run, and LaFayette’s hit went deep enough to allow Hill to make it home from first with the winner.

“We’re going up against the first-place team in the league, we’re battling for one of the last spots in playoffs, and we’re just glad that we pulled it out,” LaFayette said. “I saw a couple fast balls outside before that pitch, so I knew he was going away and I was looking for something on the outside of the plate. It just happened to be a fastball that I could handle. I didn’t try to do too much with it, just tried to put the ball in play and score at least the tying run, and it ended up going into the gap and scoring both.

“I knew I had a good hit,” LaFayette continued. “I was more worried about if Hill was going to get around from first. I knew I put it out there, I was just hoping the right or center fielder wasn’t going to get to it.”

The victory enabled the Surge to hang close with the Road City Explorers in the battle for the fourth and final postseason berth in the six-team Empire League. Both squads won Tuesday. Saranac Lake improved to 14-15 with the victory to remain a game back in the race after the Explorers beat the New York Bucks 13-9 to move to 15-14. The league-leading Thunderbirds fell to 16-7 with the setback.

The big performance at the plate may also have restored some confidence to the Surge’s offense after it mustered up three hits the day before. On Thursday, the Surge pounded out 17 hits to match their run production.

“It definitely feels good, especially knowing that we really needed this win in order to stay alive for playoffs,” LaFayette said. “Yesterday was a tough one for us. The game before we hit pretty well, and then we got just three hits. We had to come back today, get the bats going, and we did that. Seventeen runs, that was good.”

The Surge and Thunderbirds have three more games remaining over the next three days at Petrova Avenue, with each game slated to start at 1 p.m.