Saratoga beats Shen, captures I-87 Cup

PETER R. BARBER/Gazette Photographer Brian Hart of Saratoga Springs is doused with water after hitting a game-winning home run Friday against Shenendehowa.PETER R. BARBER/Gazette Photographer Brian Hart of Saratoga Springs is doused with water after hitting a game-winning home run Friday against Shenendehowa.

Gazette Sportswriter

AMSTERDAM — Shenendehowa head coach Greg Christodulu compared Friday’s meeting between his Plainsmen and Saratoga Springs to a boxing match, with both teams circling each other more than anything else.
The conclusion? That played out as a clean knockout.
“It ended with a bang,” Christodulu said. “That’s for sure.”
Brian Hart made sure of that. Leading off the bottom half of the eighth inning, the Sara­toga Springs junior center fielder launched the second pitch of his at-bat over the right-field fence. Before starting on his path around the bases to finish off the Blue Streaks’ 5-4 win, Hart stole a glance at his celebrating teammates.
“Just a rush of adrenaline ran through me,” Hart said. “I was so excited.”
The victory gave Saratoga Springs possession of the I-87 Cup, a trophy created for the Blue Streaks and Plainsmen programs to contest. The Suburban Council schedule this season calls for each team to only play each other once, so Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa scheduled Friday’s game as a non-league affair billed as “The Battle of I-87” to get in an extra game against one another. Saratoga Springs served as the home team
despite the game’s neutral
location at Shuttleworth Park.
Shenendehowa had led 4-1 after its half of the fifth inning, but the Blue Streaks scored three runs in their half to tie it up. The Blue Streaks needed to wait until extra innings to finish their comeback.
“That homer just capped it off,” Hart said.
Shenendehowa (1-3) appeared to have the game in hand after junior center fielder Griffin Wallner brought home senior right fielder Kurt Forsell with a suicide squeeze in the fifth inning. A critical error in the Plainsmen’s defensive side of the inning was the turning point.
“We didn’t lose this game in the eighth inning,” Christodulu said. “We lost the game in the fifth inning.”
With Saratoga Springs (5-1) trailing 4-2 after an RBI single by sophomore third baseman Devin McArthur, an attempted sacrifice bunt off the bat of senior right fielder Jake Fauler found its way to Shenendehowa junior pitcher Brendan Spulnick. His throw to first base was high, allowing two Blue Streaks runners to score on the error.
Earlier, an attempted pickoff of a Saratoga Springs’ base runner had similarly sailed on Spulnick. In all, the Shenendehowa pitcher only allowed one earned run out of four in seven innings, during which he allowed three hits.
Christodulu, whose program graduated nearly all of its starting lineup from last year’s state-champion squad, said playing clean baseball has been his team’s top priority.
“We probably did that for four innings today,” Christo­dulu said. “We didn’t do it for eight, unfortunately.”
Saratoga Springs senior Jack Cairns picked up the win after relieving senior teammate Matt Triola. Cairns pitched the final 41⁄3 innings, allowing one earned run. Shenendehowa
junior Tom Barkevich took the loss, only facing Hart in the eighth inning.
Shenendehowa senior third baseman Payton Johnson and junior designated hitter Joe Novenche were the only hitters to record multiple hits. Saratoga Springs only recorded four hits, but Blue Streaks head coach Andy Cuthbertson said he remained confident throughout the game his team would offer a comeback.
“I know it’s early in the season, but they just find a way,” he said. “They really do find a way.”
Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa meet in league action May 12 at Shenendehowa. The two teams, both featuring remodeled rosters from a year ago, will have time before that game to gain more seasoning. Already, though, the clubs know what to expect when they play each other.
“Every time we play Shenendehowa, it’s going to be a great game,” Hart said. “They’re always playing hard, we’re always playing hard. I love the Shen game.”
Shenendehowa    100 210 00 — 4 6 3
Saratoga Springs    001 030 01 — 5 4 4
Spulnick, Barkevich (8) and Douglas, Connors (8); Triola, Cairns (4) and Herman.