Red Storm nine fall in title game

Saranac Lake’s Ethan Knight pitches during the Section VII, Class B championship game on Friday at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Chip Cummings Field. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

PLATTSBURGH — The Saranac Lake baseball team’s hopes of pulling off an upset victory over the Saranac Central Spartans in the Section VII, Class B title game came up just short Friday.

In a game that started on May 21 and was postponed to this past Friday after one inning due to the weather, the Red Storm suffered a 5-4 loss in extra innings at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Chip Cummings Field.

The top seeded Spartans recorded a walk-off victory when Brady Blair placed a near perfect bunt down the third base line, allowing teammate Landon Giroux to dash home from third base to secure the winning run.

“It’s a hard way to go out, but I’d rather go out like this than to not have a good showing,” Saranac Lake head coach Bryan Munn said. “We battled right to the end. Saranac came to play and they got the best of us in that last inning.”

The Red Storm held a 4-1 lead into the fifth, but the Spartans tied it with three runs at the bottom half of that inning. The two squads were held scoreless in both the sixth and seventh.

Saranac Lake’s Cedar Rivers makes contact during the Section VII, Class B championship game on Friday at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Chip Cummings Field. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

In the eighth, with one out, Giroux rattled off a triple to center field that was just barely out of the reach of a diving Connor Coventry.

“Connor almost had that ball in center and that would’ve changed everything,” Munn said. “I think it actually went in and out of his glove, but it was a heck of a try.”

With the win, the Spartans advanced the the NYSPHSAA Class B subregional round, where they will face the Section 2 champions, the Taconic Hills Titans, on Thursday at Dutchman Park in Guilderland.

Friday’s performance proved to be a much better outing for the Red Storm than the last time it played, the Spartans when the team lost 10-2 on May 7. But since then, Saranac Lake had been riding a high after upsetting Northeastern Clinton in the semifinal contest on May 17.

That momentum carried over into the first inning on May 21 when senior Cedar Rivers drove in two runs on a single, and after Rivers shut down the first three Spartans batters in the bottom half of the first, thunder came roaring down … literally.

After an hour long delay, with no rain an only thunder, heavy rain finally hit the Chip Cummings Field halting, causing Section VII to postpone and move the title game to Friday.

Despite playing three days later, the postponement didn’t seem to bother the Red Storm, which extended its lead to 3-0 in its first at-bat on Friday when Evan Willett hit a triple and was driven in by Connor Coventry.

“We practiced everyday and we got at it early this morning,” Munn said. “We were ready to play. Our heads were in it and our bats were in it.”

Saranac Lake extended its lead to 4-0, when Dillon Wilson reached home on a wide throw from a Spartans player. Saranac Central recorded its first run on an error in the fourth.

After giving up just two hits in four innings of work, Rivers sustained an injury while up to bat in the fifth inning. Following the injury, he allowed two hits and a walk before being pulled.

“We were hoping to go deep into the game with him,” Munn said. “It’s not just his arm, it’s his bat at the plate. We had to hit for him twice, which essences depletes our bench too. We were running out of guys to put in, but he battled hard and he did everything he could to stay in the game and I’m proud of him. It’s one of those things that happens.”

With the bases loaded, Coventry entered in relief for Saranac Lake and the Spartans evened the game at 4-4 on a walk, a fielding error and a sacrifice fly out.

Saranac Central’s pitcher Seth Petrashune and the Red Storm’s Ethan Knight, who entered the game in the fifth inning, pitched back-to-back scoreless innings to force extra innings. Knight, a sophomore, allowed just one baserunner — and no hits — prior to Giroux’s triple.

“Ethan’s a sophomore, so we’ve got a couple year with him,” Munn said. “This core group coming back, they’re solid. We’ve got some lively arms coming up from JV level, so were excited to get right back at it next year and try to be back here to get the Class B championship.”

Knight had four strikeouts, while Rivers recorded six, including his 200th career strikeout in the second inning. Coventry, Rivers, Willett, Zack Goetz and Adam Lewis recorded one hit each.

The Spartans starting pitcher, Benjamin Yanulavich, punched out two Red Storm batters, before being relieved in the fourth. Petrashune closed out the game with four strikeouts, while allowing one hit.

While Saranac Lake will have plenty of players returning next season, the team will lose four seniors — Lewis, Rivers, Willett and Carter NiCastro — who have played a pivotal role for the team over the past two seasons.

“I’ve been coaching these guys since they were able to walk,” Munn said. “It’s sad to see them walk out of here and know that this is there last experience playing high school baseball. They’ve been great for the program. They’ve been leaders and we’re going to miss them.”


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