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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 3, 2010
Dutchmen get hot in playoffs, meet Saratoga for title today
By Jordan J. Michael
Getting hot in the playoffs pays off. Finishing stronger makes the season last longer.
After riding a rollercoaster in the regular season, the Guilderland baseball team finds itself playing for a Class AA title tonight at the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy. Electrifying wins over Queensbury, Shaker, and LaSalle earned the Dutch its spot.
“All we needed was a chance,” said Head Coach Doug LaValley, who won a Class AA championship with Guilderland in 2007. “This isn’t a surprise to us. We can compete with any team.”
LaValley’s words hold true because the Dutchmen knocked off second-seeded Shaker (7-4) in the quarterfinals last Thursday and then eliminated top seed LaSalle (7-5) on Saturday in the semifinals.
“We always knew that we had the talent to get here,” said senior pitcher Eddie Pierce, who pitched into the fifth inning against LaSalle. “We didn’t put all that talent together until the post-season. It was great timing.”
LaValley told The Enterprise that the hitting, pitching, and fielding have all been timely since sectionals started on May 25 in Queensbury. “Our strength has been with hitting,” he said. “But we’ve had very good defense because we’re not walking batters. Pitching and defense go hand and hand.”
The pitching of Pierce, Vinny Tamburello, and Luke Stark have been an anchor for the Dutch so far. Each pitcher has a win and they’re not walking nearly as many batters as during the regular season.
“We all have our best stuff right now,” Pierce said. “More strikes and more control and that leads to better plays in the field.”
Guilderland has been trying to get back to the Joe ever since it left with the trophy in 2007. That goal was finally reached with a 7-to-4 win over Shaker last Thursday on the road.
“We wanted the big stage,” said Tamburello, who broke a 3-to-3 tie in the fourth inning with a home run to left field off opposing pitcher Mike Nowak. “We’re trying really hard to win it all.”
LaValley said that Tamburello got only 17 at bats during the regular season. “I was looking for another lefty, so I decided to let him hit,” LaValley said of Tamburello. “I knew he had some power and he came through. I’m glad that I let him hit.”
“I don’t usually bat, but I’ve been making a lot of contact in practice lately,” said Tamburello, who pitched a complete game, holding the Bison to four hits. “Nowak’s curveball dropped right into my zone and I crushed it.”
The score was frozen at 4 to 3 until the Dutchmen broke out in the seventh inning with three runs. Harry Brodsky was walked by Nowak, and Jimmy Quinn watched as his deep foul ball was caught by Joe Snyder as Snyder slid into a fence.
With two outs, it looked like Nowak was ready to close out the inning with Sean Geisel at bat. Instead, Nowak’s pick-off throw to first base went awry and Brodsky ended up on third. Geisel lifted a hit just over the shortstop’s glove and Brodsky scored to make it 5 to 3.
Next up for Guilderland was Matt Zanotta and he proceeded to smack a homerun to right field on the first swing. Shaker fans groaned in unison and the Dutch lead was now at four runs.
Earlier in the fifth inning, Nowak plunked Zanotta with a pitch. It was the ninth time Zanotta had been hit by a pitch in six games. Zanotta retaliated with his 16th home run of the year that basically put the game away.
“The pitcher provided me with some motivation,” Zanotta said. “We got this done with a team effort. This win feels 10 times better than anything I can do.”
“They’re a determined bunch,” said LaValley. “A band of brothers.”
To the Joe
It was a completely new setting for all 24 players on the Dutchmen roster on Saturday night at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. Nerves were building, but Guilderland had already beaten LaSalle in a scrimmage some months ago.
“The environment was amazing,” said Pierce. “There was a little anxiety, but we stayed focused.”
LaSalle made some errors in the early innings and that helped the Dutch to a 5-to-0 lead after four innings. “We hopped on their mistakes,” LaValley said. “Pierce kept them off balance.”
Guilderland had a 6-to-5 lead in the sixth inning, but the Cadets loaded the bases. Tyler Hynes made a great play at third base to end the sixth, and Quinn drove in an insurance run in the seventh with a double to left field.
Tamburello came in to close out the game and got the first two outs, only to give up three consecutive hits to load the bases yet again. The Dutch eventually got out of the jam, and celebrated another big win.
“We all knew this was the right time to come together,” Pierce said. “We picked up the intensity on purpose. Now, we have to finish the job.”
The Dutchmen get the chance to close out another Class AA title tonight at 7 p.m. against Saratoga, a team that Guilderland had a shootout with earlier in the season. Saratoga beat the Dutch, 16 to 13, with a three-run homerun in the bottom of the seventh inning.
It’s highly unlikely that Guilderland will give up that many runs again because it is a completely different team now, LaValley said.
“I keep telling the guys to believe in winning,” said LaValley. “Everyone loves the underdog.”