BY MICHAEL KELLY
COLONIE — A catch, a flip and a sigh of relief.
With that, Shenendehowa finished off its 11-8 win Thursday against CBA, as a furious late-innings rally from the top-seeded Brothers came up short in the quarterfinals of the Section II Class AA baseball tournament.
“It was definitely getting nerve-wracking,” Shenendehowa second baseman Joe Palko said. “I mean, they kept getting hits and getting runs. They kept coming back and grinding.”
No. 8 Shenendehowa (No. 8, 15-7) scored all of its run before No. 1 CBA (No. 1, 17-3) scored any, but the Brothers had the tying run up at the plate with one out in the seventh inning. That’s when CBA designated hitter Drew Signor hit a liner right at Palko, who made the catch and tossed the ball to teammate Devin Smith at second base to complete the game-ending double-play.
Palko’s catch and flip came one batter after the senior had committed an error.
“I just wanted to make up for my team,” said Palko, who had the game-winning hit in last year’s state championship game for the Plainsmen.
Palko — who had three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored — and the Plainsmen looked like they were going to coast into Saturday’s semifinals at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. As starting pitcher Brandon Roberts pitched four consecutive scoreless innings, Shenendehowa scored 11 runs through its first five offensive frames.
Still, Shenendehowa expected CBA to make a charge.
“There’s not one kid in that lineup that can’t hit the ball,” said Roberts, who allowed five runs in six innings and struck out six. “You really gotta bring all you got.”
Shenendehowa removed Roberts after he allowed a leadoff single in the seventh with an 11-4 lead. After the next CBA batter got out, things got interesting.
“We [hadn’t played] the greatest baseball,” said CBA head coach Casey O’Connor, whose team made six errors, “but we knew we still had some fight left in us.”
CBA center fielder Nick Melillo’s RBI single got the Brothers within 11-5 with a couple runners on base. Then, first baseman Davis Payne crushed a three-run home run to bring the score to 11-8.
Next came Palko’s error — and, then, the game-ending double-play he started on a ball crushed off Signor’s bat.
“Easily could have been two feet one way or the other and the game continues,” Shenendehowa head coach Greg Christodulu said. “That’s part of baseball.”
But the game’s last break went the way of the Plainsmen, who won the rematch of last year’s area title game. Shenendehowa won that one 3-0 on their way to a state championship. Shenendehowa also beat CBA during this past regular season.
“We knew we were gonna have to face them at some point,” O’Connor said of his team’s tough quarterfinal draw. “It’s either early or late. Last year it was late, this year it’s early.”
Besides Palko’s big hitting day, Shenendehowa right fielder Kurt Forsell hit a two-run home run and designated hitter Joe Novenche had an RBI triple.
Shenendehowa now heads to the semifinals to see archrival Saratoga Springs. Palko said the Plainsmen will be ready for their latest trip to Bruno Stadium for postseason action.
“We love playing at ‘The Joe,’” Palko said. “We consider it our second home field.”
Shen 320 060 0 — 11 8 1
CBA 000 022 4 — 8 10 6
Roberts, Wright (7), Disonell (7) and Douglas; DeBrino, Wasula (5), Edmunds (6), Esposito (7), VanBeusekom and Zebrowski.