Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder
Amsterdam shortstop Andrew Rouse (2) consoles teammate Bryan Stanavich, left, after the Rams lost to Averill Park, 8-7, in the Section II Class A semifinals Saturday at the Plumeri Sports Complex in Albany.
By ADAM SHINDER
ALBANY -- As his players still shed tears in the painful aftermath, Amsterdam High School baseball coach Brian Spagnola summed things up succinctly.
"We were one play away," Spagnola said. "We were one play short, defensively, and one hit away, offensively, all day."
The Rams were teasingly, agonizingly close so many times to tipping the scales of Saturday's Section II Class A semifinal against the Averill Park Warriors in their favor, but there was always something stopping them from getting over the hump.
Fighting until the final strike, the Rams rallied from five runs down to put the tying run at second base and the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Averill Park's Devin VanDervoort caught Bryan Stanavich looking at an inside fastball to end the game -- and Amsterdam's season -- with a gutwrenching 8-7 loss at the Plumeri Sports Complex.
"We definitely didn't play our best game, but we fought the whole, entire game," Amsterdam senior shortstop Andrew Rouse said. "A couple plays here and there, a couple plays and we win the game."
In a game of bizarre twists and turns, the eighth-seeded Warriors jumped out to a 4-0 lead, only for the Rams to claw three of those runs back before a four-run fifth inning -- highlighted by a mammoth three-run double from Brent Jones -- gave the Warriors an 8-3 lead.
Amsterdam got two runs back in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk by Stanavich and an RBI fielder's choice from Eric Robertshaw before VanDervoort -- the Warriors' third pitcher of the game -- retired Andrew Rouse on a popped-up foul ball.
Then, in the seventh -- just as they had in Friday's riveting quarterfinal win over Scotia-Glenville -- the Rams made another last-ditch charge. Brady McGillin walked with one out, then Ben Rhodes picked up his second single of the game before being forced out at second on Brett Flint's grounder to put runners and second and third with two out.
Catcher Anthony Noce, who hit just .179 during the regular season, followed with the biggest hit of his varsity career, blasting a two-run double to deep right that fell just shy of the 327-foot sign and a game-tying home run.
Keny Ribot-Diaz came on to pinch run and Stanavich worked a full count with RBI leader Julian Gallup in the on-deck circle, but VanDervoort's 3-2 fastball just nicked the inside part of the zone to send the Warriors into Friday's Class A championship game against No. 7 seed Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and send the Rams home heartbroken, but proud.
"That's what we've done all year, but especially now -- we don't go down without a fight," Rouse said. "We didn't want to leave just yet. It's not so early for Amsterdam, but earlier than we wanted."
Flint got just his second start of the year on the mound in the sectional semifinal and was charged with four runs -- two earned -- in 4 1/3 innings. Ben Reinisch ripped a two-run double just over the head of a leaping Gallup in center to break the ice in the fourth inning, then Averill Park got two runs in the fifth when -- after Tony Isabel came on in relief and Flint moved to third base -- miscommunication on a two-out Sam Beaulac pop-up allowed the ball to kick off the heel of Flint's glove and let two runs score.
After the Rams got three runs on just one hit in the bottom of the fifth against Averill Park starter Alex Tomlinson and reliever Jones, it was Jones who broke the game back open in the sixth with a three-run double to left-center off Gallup, who faced three batters Saturday after throwing a complete game Friday.
After Jones' double, the Rams then lost second baseman Kolbie Glionna when he collided with Stanavich on a pop-up that Stanavich caught in shallow center. Glionna, the Rams' cleanup hitter, walked off the field but said later Saturday that he was diagnosed with a fractured orbital bone around his left eye, which was badly bruised and swollen.
Averill Park added another run in the inning on a James Apple RBI infield single, and while the Rams had their chances -- they had the go-ahead run at the plate in each of the final two innings -- they couldn't produce the same magic they found Friday in Scotia to complete the comeback.
"We were one hit short all day," Spagnola said. "One play short all day. That's what they do, though -- they fight and they fight and they fight. I'm disappointed with the outcome, but I'm certainly proud of what they did."
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