Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder Amsterdam assistant coach Mike Deamer, left, puts his arm around second baseman Kolbie Glionna as they walk off the field after Glionna was injured in a collision with Bryan Stanavich, not pictured, during Saturday's Section II Class A semifinal against Averill Park at the Plumeri Sports Complex in Albany.
Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder Amsterdam's Ben Rhodes, right, slides safely under the tag of Averill Park's Ben Reinisch to steal second base during Saturday's Section II Class A semifinal at the Plumeri Sports Complex in Albany.
By ADAM SHINDER
ALBANY -- After Friday's thrilling comeback win over Scotia-Glenville in the first round of the Section II Class A baseball playoffs, Amsterdam Rams coach Brian Spagnola had an exchange of text messages with AHS girls track and field coach Stu Palczak that perfectly summed up Spagnola's feelings for his 2014 club,
"When I said how hard we fought, he said, 'That's what Amsterdam kids do,'" Spagnola said.
And to the final moment of Saturday's Section II Class A semifinal against the Averill Park Warriors, that's exactly what this group of Amsterdam kids did, rallying from deficits of four and five runs to come desperately close to a trip to the sectional finals, only for the door to be shut with an 8-7 loss.
After a regular season where the Rams spent more than a month without a true home field thanks to the installation of an artificial turf infield at Shuttleworth Park and after rallying for five runs in their final at-bat Friday against Scotia-Glenville when they were three outs from elimination, despite his disappointment in the team not moving on to Friday's final at Joe Bruno Stadium, Spagnola couldn't help but be proud of a team that picked up the program's first sectional playoff win since 2004.
"They fought, and I couldn't be prouder," Spagnola said. "It's gonna sting -- especially for the seniors, it's very emotional."
Saturday's semifinal swung on a few key moments. The eighth-seeded Warriors put up eight runs while getting only six hits against four Amsterdam pitchers, but those hits included a two-run double from Ben Reinisch in the fourth inning and a three-run double from Brent Jones in the sixth. The Rams also made the game's costliest mistake, when a miscommunication between third baseman Brett Flint and pitcher Tony Isabel on a pop-up in the fifth allowed the ball to kick away as two Warriors runs scored.
Meanwhile, the Rams left either the tying or go-ahead runs on base in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings -- though they rallied like mad to even have the chance. Amsterdam batters managed just four hits -- two from Ben Rhodes, one each from Anthony Noce and Eric Robertshaw -- but worked eight walks and twice clawed to within one run, with a three-run rally in the fifth and Noce's two-run double to deep right with two outs in the seventh.
However, the Warriors always managed to shut the door, with Devin VanDervoort recording a strikeout with the tying run in scoring position in the seventh to send the Warriors to the final.
"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."
The Rams also fought through the loss of senior second baseman and cleanup hitter Kolbie Glionna, who left the game in the sixth inning after colliding with centerfielder Bryan Stanavich as both went after a pop-up. Glionna suffered a fractured orbital bone around his left eye, and his loss compounded onto the team already being without regular cleanup hitter Jonardy Anil, who was lost for the playoffs with an injury in the final weekend of the regular season.
And despite all that adversity, the Rams charged and charged until there weren't any outs left.
"We just fought," Spagnola said. "To get within one hit of tying it after being down that many times is just a testament of what we have. That's what they do."
"We didn't want to leave just yet," Rouse added. "It's not so early for Amsterdam, but earlier than we wanted."
For the team's seven seniors -- Rouse, Glionna, Anil, Julian Gallup, Jared Gallup, Eric Robertshaw and Keny Ribot-Diaz -- Saturday was a bitter final pill to swallow for their high school baseball careers.
But, after the tears had been shed and the Rams were getting ready for the long, slow walk to their bus for the trip home, Rouse said he wouldn't want to end his three-year varsity career with any other group.
"A lot of great memories. It was a great group of guys to play with," Rouse said. "A lot of fun. You couldn't ask for a better three seasons."
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