PLATTSBURGH - After struggling through much of the regular season, the Lake Placid baseball team has been on roll in the playoffs.
On Thursday, the Blue Bombers captured their second straight Section VII, Class D title with an 11-4 victory over Moriah in the championship final played at SUNY Plattsburgh's Chip Cummings Field.
The win was the third straight in the postseason for Lake Placid, which has now gone 5-2 during its past seven games. In the playoffs, the Blue Bombers have piled up 33 runs in their three victories, and they came up big in the top of the third inning against the Vikings when they sent six runners across the plate to grab a 6-0 edge. All six of those runs were unearned as Moriah committed numerous errors in the frame.
Lake Placid catcher Connor Preston lays into a pitch during Thursday’s Section VII, Class D championship game against Moriah. Preston went 3-for-4 at the plate in the Blue bombers victory.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Holding a six-run lead, Lake Placid fell apart defensively in the bottom of the third as Moriah cut its deficit to 6-4, but the Blue Bombers regrouped and gave up just one more run the rest of the way to improve to 5-8 overall.
"Except for that one inning, I think we played really well," Lake Placid head coach Brian Brandes said. "We had a little let down there, and fortunately we snapped out of it. Moriah has had some hot bats recently, and that was a concern."
Shane McNierney, the lone starting senior on Lake Placid, came up big at the plate an in the field. He had a 3-for-4 performance and three RBI and took over on the mound to get the Blue Bombers through the middle stretch of the game. He replaced starting pitcher Ryan Damp in the third inning and lasted until the seventh when Chris Williams came in to finish the job.
The three pitchers combined to toss a four-hitter for the Blue Bombers while striking out 10 Vikings.
Sophomore catcher Connor Preston also went 3-for-4 in Lake Placid's 11-hit attack. Williams and Alex Brandes both rapped out two singles in the win.
The turning point in the game came in the bottom of the second inning. Damp, a junior who returned late in the regular season after recovering from a broken collarbone, loaded the bases with no outs. Tom Rancour started the Vikings off with a single, and Damp then walked the following batter and hit the next one. Sensing Damp was in trouble, Brandes brought in McNierney, who retired the next three batters - including two on strikeouts - while keeping the Vikings off the scoreboard.
"I knew right away that Ryan wasn't comfortable up there," Brandes said. "Shane pitched against Moriah when we played them in the regular season and did a nice job, so I put him in there. He just came in and shut the door. He's always right around the strike zone. Holding Moriah scoreless in the second, that really turned the momentum our way."
Lake Placid then went on to score six times in its third at-bat. Moriah answered with four runs to make it a new game, but the Blue Bombers clamped down on defense the rest of the way and only gave up one more run, which came in the bottom of the seventh.
The Blue Bombers added a run in the top of the fourth and scored two more times in the fifth to build a 9-4 edge, and tacked on another pair of runs in their final at-bat for an 11-4 lead. CJ Raymond scored Moriah's last run of the season, reaching home plate in the seventh on a RBI single by Austin Allen.
Christopher Clarke pitched a complete game for the Vikings, who ended the season with a 6-10 record.
Each team finished the game with seven errors, including combining for nine in the sloppy third inning.
"It seems like they took more advantage of our errors than we did with their errors," Moriah coach Casey Nephew. "When we put them on with errors, they drove them in. We battled back with four runs but the energy wasn't there."
The Blue Bombers will now have to endure a long wait for their next game, which will be a regional contest on Saturday, June 7 against the winner of the Section II-Section X playoff matchup. St. Johnsville will be the Section II representative after knocking off defending Class D state champion Fort Ann, while Harrisville and Heuvelton will battle it out for the Section X title.
Lake Placid started the season with an 0-8 mark, and all those games were without Damp in the lineup. The team has gone 5-2 since his return.
"Ryan's return has really given us a presence in the batting order and options on defense," Brandes said. "One through nine, we're getting production at the plate. Right now, our guys are really confident.
"The toughest part is going to be this next week," Brandes said. "Right now, we're rolling but we won't be playing for a while. Our hitting has been great."
Lake Placid 11, Moriah 5
Damp, McNierney (3), Williams (7) and Preston. Clarke and Raymond. WP - McNierney. LP - Clarke.