By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
In the end, it was a race that was simply too close to call.
Knotted together at the top of the Amsterdam High School baseball team's lineup, juniors Andrew Rouse and Julian Gallup spent most of the season engaged in a game of, "Can You Top This?" trading the Rams' batting lead back and forth and serving as Amsterdam's consistent catalysts at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field.
When it came down to it, they just couldn't be separated, so Rouse and Gallup have been recognized as the Recorder's Co-Players of the Year for the 2013 high school baseball season.
Meanwhile, Fort Plain's Marcus Failing had the kind of season that definitively blew his competition away, as the senior lefthander posted a 9-0 record and more than 100 strikeouts on his way to claiming Pitcher of the Year honors. Failing's coach at Fort Plain, Craig Phillips, has been named the 2013 Coach of the Year for guiding the Hilltoppers to an undefeated season in the Western Athletic Conference and a berth in the Section II Class C championship game.
Co-Players of the Year: Julian Gallup, Jr., Amsterdam and Andrew Rouse, Jr., Amsterdam
One spent most of the year in the leadoff spot, ripping the ball around the field and causing mass havoc on the basepaths. The other hit just behind him, working opposing pitchers into submission before -- far more often that not -- reaching base himself and moving the dangerous leadoff man in front of him along.
Amsterdam juniors Gallup and Rouse were nearly inseperable on the field this season, the duo at the top of the Rams' lineup that consistently struck fear in opposing pitchers and coaches.
Gallup started the season as Amsterdam's right fielder and cleanup hitter, and while he ended it as the Rams' first baseman and leadoff man, his production never waned -- a .429 battign average, a .562 on base percentage, 24 hits, 21 runs scored and a stolen base total so high that most trying to keep track lost count at some point during the season.
Rouse, a slick shortstop, edged out Gallup for the Rams' batting title with a .436 average, finished second on the team behind Ayden Healy with 15 runs batted in, scored 17 runs, reached base at a .537 clip and was -- with second baseman Kolbie Glionna -- one-half of one of Section II's best defensive middle infields.
And both of them are coming back for one more year in purple and gold.
Pitcher of the Year: Marcus Failing, Sr., Fort Plain
From his first start of the year, when he struck out 15 Canajoharie batters in just six innings of work, Failing was bound for a special season -- and he spent his next eight pitching appearances living up to all that hype.
The numbers were almost mind-boggling for the senior southpaw: In 60 1/3 innings, Failing worked to a minuscule 1.04 earned run average, allowing just 38 hits, walked just 23 batters and racked up an astounding 106 strikeouts -- second only to Dustin Baker's 122 strikeouts in 2008 in Fort Plain's single-season record book.
Oh, and every time he took the mound, it was a guaranteed Hilltopper win -- a 9-0 record that brought his three-year varsity career to an end with a 16-4 record with a 1.60 EAR and 231 strikeouts.
Coach of the Year: Craig Phillips, Fort Plain
Phillips didn't have his most talented team for his 37th season on the Fort Plain bench, but with Failing on the mound at the head of a group of seven seniors who started every single game for the Hilltoppers, the veteran skipper led a club that went undefeated in Western Athletic Conference play, earned the top seed in the Section II Class C playoffs and won tight postseason games against Hoosick Falls and Hoosic Valley before bowing out to Voorheesville in the sectional championship game, leaving Phillips with 696 career wins after Fort Plain's area-best 19-3 season.
RECORDER ALL-AREA BASEBALL TEAM
C: Zach Sweet, Sr., Fort Plain -- Moved to the leadoff spot for the stretch run, Sweet provided a consistent spark for the Hilltoppers with a team-best .437 batting average and 23 stolen bases. Sweet reached base 47 times this season and came around to score an area-best 37 runs.
1B: Chris Hanifin, Sr., Fort Plain -- A three-year starter, Hanifin hit .392 with 23 runs batted in. As the Hilltoppers' No. 2 starter, he worked to a 7-2 record and a 2.54 ERA and completed his varsity career without comitting an error in the field.
2B: Joey Ray, Sr., Fort Plain -- A model of consistency for the WAC North champions, Ray hit .306, drove in 14 runs and scored 26 runs. He picked up his offensive game late in the season, hitting .370 with nine RBIs in Fort Plain's final eight games.
SS: Zach Bowerman, Sr., Canajoharie -- The Cougars' dangerous leadoff hitter hit .417 with 15 RBIs and 21 runs scored while also proving extremely effective on the basepaths with 18 stolen bases in 20 attempts. Bowerman also struck out 63 batters over just 43 innings on the mound.
3B: Pat Hart, Soph., Fonda-Fultonville -- Hart was F-F's most consistent offensive threat, hitting .377 with a home run and a team-best 16 RBIs. He put up a massive .679 slugging percentage, with 12 of his 20 hits on the season going for extra bases
OF: Ayden Healy, Sr., Amsterdam -- Healy's early power surge waned toward the end of the season, but the senior still hit .317 with three home runs and 22 RBI while covering an incredible amount of ground in centerfield.
OF: Dakota Nemecek, Sr., Fort Plain -- Hitting cleanup behind Hanifin for the Hilltoppers, Nemecek hit .431 with a home run and 21 RBI. Nemecek made contact in nearly all of his 78 plate appearances this season -- he worked just four walks, but only struck out three times.
OF: Kyle McLaughlin, Soph., Canajoharie -- McLaughlin became a solid fixture in the Canajoharie lineup this season, hitting .377 with 15 RBIs. He turned in his finest performance of the season in the Cougars' final game, going 3-for-4 in a sectional playoff loss to Duanesburg.
Util.: Joe Zarecki, Jr., Broadalbin-Perth -- Mostly playing at third base, Zarecki hit .321 for the Patriots and was second on the team with 14 RBIs. The junior hit .345 with runners in scoring position and was also the Patriots' No. 2 pitcher, notching a 3-2 record in eight appearances.
DH: Anthony Sinicropi, Soph., Fonda-Fultonville -- Sinicropi shared time behind the plate with Clyde Sammons for the Braves, but was a constant presence in the middle of coach Rick Palumbo's order, hitting at a .328 clip with 14 RBIs in his first varsity season.
P: Zak Shaw, Jr., Fonda-Fultonville -- From No. 3 starter as a sophomore to one of the Colonial Council's top pitchers as a junior, Shaw only posted a 3-4 record while facing the Braves' toughest opponents, but worked to a 1.71 ERA while allowing just 29 hits in 45 innings, holding opposing hitters to a .173 batting average.
P: Zach Dufel, Sr., Amsterdam -- The backbone of the Rams' pitching staff along with fellow senior Dylan Angelo, Dufel worked to a 2.64 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. His season was highlighted by two complete game gems -- a six-hit shutout against eventualy Big 10 champion La Salle and a three-hitter against Albany.
P: Anthony Visco, Sr., Broadalbin-Perth -- The oft-used ace of coach Dan Simonds' B-P rotation, Visco was the Patriots' regular Monday starter in the Foothills Council and turned in a brilliant season, going 4-3 with a 2.29 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55 innings over 12 appearances.
Catchers: Tim Gordon, Sr., Broadalbin-Perth
Infielders: Kevin Twardzik, Sr., Fonda-Fultonville; Kolbie Glionna, Jr., Amsterdam; Baylee Hall, Soph., Fonda-Fultonville; Drew Fureno, 8th grade, Fort Plain; Jason Agresta, Sr., Amsterdam
Outfielders: Patrick Brown, Sr., Broadalbin-Perth; Jonardy Anil, Jr., Amsterdam; Kevin Shannon, Sr., Canajoharie
Pitchers: Dylan Klock, Fr., St. Johnsville; Joe Winsman, Jr., Canajoharie; Dylan Angelo, Sr., Amsterdam