BY ANDREW PUGLIESE
For Your Clifton Park & Halfmoon
NISKAYUNA — Four teams from the Capital Region recently advanced to the 13-year-old Babe Ruth Eastern New York State Tournament. Clifton Park’s team is among them — and it picked up some hardware along the way.
Clifton Park knocked off North Colonie (Blue) in the District 1/District 2 Championship at Niskayuna’s Blatnick Park 13-6 on July 2. After two extra-inning games during the week, including a 6-5 loss against North Colonie (Blue) to end pool play, the champions won comfortably in the final game.
“The key is the team came together and we really formed as a team through this tournament,” said Clifton Park head coach Dwayne Grimes. “The team is really starting to gel and the kids are just doing a great job. They’re accepting the roles when they get ’em.”
In six games during districts, Clifton Park outscored opponents 47-27. After falling behind 4-2 in the first inning, it was relief pitching that took over in the championship game. Brody Vincenzi came on for starting pitcher Tom Krill during the opening frame and stopped North Colonie’s advance. He allowed just one run over the course of the next two frames before passing the ball onto Ryan McCarroll during the fourth inning.
Vincenzi’s performance gave his team’s offense a chance to get going.
“That was his third time throwing in this tournament. He was pretty big for us throughout this tournament,” Grimes said. “That was fantastic and we always preach calmness.”
While Vicenzi and McCarroll gave up just two runs on three hits from the second inning on, the Clifton Park offense put up crooked numbers against the North Colonie (Blue) pitching staff in three of the final six innings. From the fourth through the sixth frames, Clifton Park scored its final 11 runs on nine hits. Jeff Swift led the way for the visitors with two of his three doubles during that stretch. Swift led all players with three hits.
Grimes called his team’s No. 3 hitter its most valuable player over the course of the district tournament.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play to start it off and then I just started getting a better swing of the bat,” said Swift of his approach during districts. “This game was just the best I’ve ever had.”
Swift also found it uplifting to see his teammates sharing in the success. Sean Flaherty and Jackson Marszalek each had multi-hit games as well and the hitters in the final two spots in the order combined for three hits.
North Colonie (Blue) made a push in the final frame when a pair of doubles produced a run, but McCarroll dispatched the final two batters he faced to clinch the championship.
McCarroll said pitching with a big lead gave him confidence. He made sure to remember he could give up a run or two just as long as he got the last three outs and finished off the game. He closed it out on a three-pitch strikeout.
“This is my first time since I was 10,” McCarroll said of advancing. “It feels good.”
Clifton Park advances to the Eastern New York State Tournament in Tuckahoe. They will be joined by North Colonie (Blue), Niskayuna and South Colonie. Play begins July 8.