Adam Shinder/Recorder staff
Fort Plain’s Dawson Nare (4) slides safely into home plate to score a run during Wednesday’s game against Schoharie at Phillips Field in Fort Plain.
By ADAM SHINDER
FORT PLAIN — Before this season, the last time Drew Fureno pitched in a competitive situation was as a seventh-grader on Fort Plain’s modified baseball team.
With the varsity Hilltoppers light on experience this season, Fureno — a fifth-year starter and the team’s lone senior — has answered the call and returned to the mound when needed.
“It’s been different, it’s a different motion,” Fureno said. “But, we’re getting used to it, working on it. Hopefully, I’ll improve as the season goes on and help the team.”
Wednesday, Fureno threw 3 1/3 innings in relief of starter Bryce Thibodeau and worked his way out of a couple of crucial jams to help preserve a Fort Plain lead. At the plate, Fureno did what he’s excelled at since he was called up to the varsity team as an eighth-grader and provide a spark at the top of the lineup by going 2-for-2 with a run batted in and three runs scored in the Hilltoppers’ 12-7 win.
Brady Fureno, Drew’s younger brother, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the defending New York State Class D champion Hilltoppers (4-1, 3-1 WAC), who won their fourth consecutive game. Thibodeau added an RBI single as Fort Plain put up a dozen runs on five hits, taking advantage of seven walks and five hit batters handed out by Schoharie pitchers Steve Alescio, Shane Helmstadt and Joe Polley.
Fort Plain didn’t exactly play a clean game — the Hilltoppers struck out 12 times and committed three errors while the team’s young outfield struggled tracking down flyballs on multiple occasions — but head coach Craig Phillips said those are growing pains from a team relying almost exclusively on underclassmen.
“If you go down our lineup, we’ve got a sophomore pitcher, freshman catcher, eighth-grader at third, senior at shortstop, sophomore at second, freshman at first, and a sophomore, a sophomore and a freshman (in the outfield),” Phillips said. “It’s gonna take a while, but they’re gonna be OK.”
Helmstadt went 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs and Noah Valvo was 3-for-3 with two doubles for Schoharie, but the bottom five hitters in the Indian’s lineup were just 3-for-20 with 12 strikeouts.
Drew Fureno fanned six in 3 1/3 innings before leaving with a 1-2 count to Skyler Jankowski with two outs in the sixth. Fureno was lifted to preserve his pitching eligibility for later this week.
“He didn’t want to come out,” Phillips said. “He doesn’t want to pitch, but when he gets in there, he’s got that attitude.”
John Cortese relieved Fureno and recorded four straight strikeouts to seal the win.
Brady Fureno’s RBI single gave Fort Plain a 1-0 lead after one inning, and after Schoharie put up two runs in the second, the Hilltoppers took the lead for good with five two-out runs in the bottom of the second. Mike D’Arcangelis was hit by a pitch for the first of three times to start the rally, which included a bases-loaded walk drawn by Troy Butler, a two-run single by Brady Fureno with an error allowing a third run to score on the play and an RBI single by Thibodeau.
The Hilltoppers put the game away with a four-run surge in the bottom of the fifth that made it 11-5, again aided by the younger players at the bottom of the lineup working their way on through walks and being hit by pitches before the top of the order brought them home.
“The big innings started with the little guys on, and it went on from there,” Drew Fureno said. “We definitely feel confident in that aspect. We look for the beginning of the lineup to produce runs for us, and when we have the opportunity, we definitely need to capitalize on it.”
Fort Plain is scheduled to return to action Friday with an 11 a.m. road game against Middleburgh.
Contact ADAM SHINDER at [email protected]