BY MICHAEL KELLY
TROY — Ian Anderson gave up five more hits and registered seven fewer strikeouts in this year’s Section II Class AA baseball championship game than he did a year ago on this stage.
But he also allowed one less run.
“And that’s all the matters,” he said, a huge smile playing on his face.
A year after a painful season-ending loss at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, Shenendehowa made amends with a 3-0 win against Christian Brothers Academy behind its star senior pitcher. Anderson — a likely first-round pick in next month’s Major League Baseball amateur draft — went the distance, allowing seven hits and striking out five in his shutout.
Anderson’s 105th pitch of the May 26 night helped produce the final out when Shenendehowa senior shortstop Nick Jacques flipped an assist to senior second baseman Nik Malachowski to start the Plainsmen’s celebration of a third title in four years. That pitch count was a season-high for Anderson, who missed nearly all of April due to injury and illness.
“His pitch count was a little bit up, but he said ‘Coach, I’m good,’ ” Shenendehowa head coach Greg Christodulu said. “When your ace, a kid of that talent, wants the ball and he’s still throwing strikes and competing — and his velocity is where it needs to be to be competitive — he’s going to stay out there.”
Unlike in last year’s 1-0 loss to Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa (No. 1, 18-5) gave support to its pitcher early against CBA (No. 2, 18-5). The Plainsmen scored a pair of runs in the third inning, as Malachowski and senior first baseman Joe Fraser delivered RBI singles off CBA senior pitcher Elliott Raimo.
Those early runs were crucial for the Plainsmen, many of whom were on the diamond for last year’s shutout loss in the finale.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves in the first couple innings,” Malachowski said. “We were able to come back and score those two runs . . . and once we got those two runs, it was easier.”
“That’s how you win in the playoffs,” said senior catcher Ben Anderson, the pitcher’s twin brother. “You need clutch hitting.”
Ben Anderson added the insurance run for the Plainsmen in the sixth inning. The catcher knocked a two-out double to deep left field, scoring Malachowski.
“When I went up there, I just knew I had to get [Malachowski] in,” Ben Anderson said. “We had to get him in. I just went up, relaxed, and got one to hit.”
Raimo got out of that sixth inning before any further damage. The Brothers’ right-handed ace pitched all six innings for CBA, allowing three earned runs and five hits while striking out eight in defeat.
“Elliott is a hell of a pitcher,” Malachowski said. “He’s phenomenal.”
But Ian Anderson was the one always able to dance out of trouble. He produced just one 1-2-3 inning, but only allowed one CBA base runner to reach third.
That came in the top of the sixth inning, with Shenendehowa still up 2-0. CBA put its first two runners on base, but Ian Anderson fielded the sacrifice bunt attempt from junior shortstop Peter Close and got the lead runner out at third. From there, Anderson worked his way out of the inning with his shutout intact.
“That bunt didn’t get down, but that didn’t stop us,” CBA head coach Casey O’Connor said. “We were still threatening in the seventh.”
Raimo singled in the seventh inning for CBA, his second hit of the game, but the Brothers never could put the tying run up to the plate.
Anderson joked his effort from last year’s final was better than his output this time. He was fine with that.
“I was telling Coach that I pitched better last year and we lost, worse this year and we won,” he said. “But I’ll take the win, no doubt about that.”
In victory, Fraser had two hits, Malachowski scored a pair of runs and Jacques reached base twice and scored the Plainsmen’s first run.
After dropping the final two games of its regular season, Shenendehowa outscored its opponents 15-3 in the postseason. Anderson pitched 14 of the team’s 21 innings, not allowing a run in the march to the championship.
“They weren’t going to quit,” Christodulu said of his Plainsmen. “As the playoffs picked up, you could see the tone, the energy — everything — change. When the playoffs started, these guys went up a notch.”
Shenendehowa also beat CBA in the championship game in 2014, a 10-4 decision.
The Plainsmen advance to play for a regional championship June 4 back at Bruno Stadium against a Section III squad.
CBA 000 000 0 — 0 7 0
Shen 002 001 x — 3 5 0
Raimo and Herald; I. Anderson and B. Anderson.