Facing the same opponent again in a rematch for the title, Lake Placid’s teenagers did feel some pain this time around, as St. Regis Falls pulled out a dramatic 8-7 win Thursday, Aug. 11 in a successful defense of its championship.
In a back-and-forth game, St. Regis Falls broke a 6-6 tie with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh, then held on in the bottom of the frame after Lake Placid scored once and loaded up the bases, but failed to get the tying run home. With the count full, St. Regis Falls pitcher Mike Burns tossed one more strike to end the game and lift his team past Lake Placid.
A year ago, the young players on St. Regis Falls lost a friend and teammate when Brad Frazier died after being struck by a baseball on the pitcher’s mound. They dedicated this season to him again, and put an exclamation point on their campaign by winning a second straight title in the 10-team Malone Lions league for 13-to-16-year-olds.
“Last year, our kids wanted to win this game for their friend Brad,” said St. Regis Falls coach Sonny Duquette. “He was their best friend. Before we started playing this summer, our kids wanted to come back and dedicate the season to him again.
“I’ve coached this same group of kids for years, and this was probably the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” Duquette added. “Lake Placid’s guys showed so much class and respect last year, it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings too much if they won it this year.”
Lake Placid went into Thursday’s game as the league’s regular-season champion with a 10-1 record, but an uncharacteristic rough outing in the field didn’t help the cause for the hosts, who gave up six unearned runs in the loss.
“We started a Babe Ruth team last year for the first time in a while, and the main purpose of this team is to provide a feeder for the varsity baseball program,” said Lake Placid coach Tim McNierney. “Our kids really wanted to win this game, and it was a real pressure game. Obviously, we play to have fun in the summer, but we also want to win. Losing two close championship games twice in a row, that’s tough to handle.”
St. Regis Falls took advantage of four Lake Placid errors to score three runs in the top of the first inning, but the hosts answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame to make it a 3-2 game.
Lake Placid then tied the contest in the bottom of the second, only to see St. Regis Falls score three more runs in its next at bat to grab a 6-3 edge.
The game then turned into a pitchers’ duel between Burns and Ryan Meyer in the middle innings, until the last inning. In the top of the seventh, errors again proved costly as St. Regis Falls scored twice to go back in front by an 8-6 score, with Dakota Wallace and Ryan Duquette reaching home before Lake Placid got out of the inning.
That set the stage for a wild finish. Lake Placid’s Dalton Jacques, a 13-year-old in his first season at the Babe Ruth level, ripped a single to centerfield and eventually reached home to cut the deficit to a single run. Jacques’ run, however, ended up being the final score of the game, as Lake Placid stranded three runners when the final pitch was thrown. When strike three was called, the Lake Placid side of the field was left in shock while the St. Regis Falls players and their many fans went into a joyful celebration.
“There haven’t been a whole lot of smiles over the last year and a half, but we were smiling at the end of this game,” coach Duquette said. “There was lots of smiling, lots of hugs and lots of tears. Heading into that final inning, I was thinking what to tell my kids when Lake Placid got that big hit to end the game. But that didn’t happen.
“After last season, I was almost hoping Lake Placid won this time, but after coaching our kids for years and years, I was really happy for them,” Duquette said. “What a game. Two class teams with great fans and parents, you can’t ask for anything better.”
Lake Placid’s players rapped out a dozen hits in the game, but Burns only walked two batters in the victory. It marked the first time this season he pitched more than five innings in one game. Meyer also threw a solid game on the mound for Lake Placid while striking out five batters.
“That’s a good team we played,” McNierney said. “We’ve only been in this league for two years now, and I think we have a rivalry going with them. But it’s a nice, healthy rivalry. We always battle hard against them. This time, things just didn’t go our way.”
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Lake Placid pitcher Ryan Meyer hauls in an infield popup while being backed by teammate Ryan Damp during the championship game.