It wasn't all that long ago that Ichabod Crane inflicted the first Section 2 loss of the season on defending Class B champion Albany Academy. Going into tonight's title game, it felt like a distant memory.
Each team went with their aces on the mound, with Dave Yankowski getting the call for the Riders, and Ben Seiler for Academy. Seiler got through the first inning with no problems, getting his opposite number to fly out to end the frame.
In the home half of the first, Johnny Decker singled, stole second, and, with the bases loaded, scored on a ground ball by Seiler that deflected off Yankowski's glove. Seiler was out at first by a stride, but Decker gave the Cadets a short-lived 1-0 lead.
Short-lived because in the top of the second, the Riders answered right back. Josh Hall drew a two-out walk, and scored on a double by John Wheeler. However, Ichabod Crane could go no further, and we were tied after two innings at a run apiece.
In the Cadet third, Decker beat out an infield single, Danny Moshier walked, and Brett Young was clipped on the helmet by a pitch as Yankowski had lost the strike zone. E. J. Birch then cleared the sacks with a triple to give Academy a 4-1 lead. Seiler promptly brought Birch home with a single to make it 5-1. It stayed that way until the fifth, when Rama Culver led off with a double, and Seamus Wolfe brought him home with a single to make it 5-2.
The Cadets answered in their half of the fifth, and effectively put the game away. Birch, with one out, doubled. Seiler plated pinch runner Joe Whalen with a base knock, and, one out later, Ben Mason lashed a drive to right that scored Seiler, but the Rider defense had trouble handling the ball, which ended up in the Cadet dugout, allowing Mason to score. Ichabod Crane crept closer with two runs in the sixth, helped out by a period of wildness by Seiler, who walked Hall & Wheeler to start the inning. Hall would score on a single by Tyler Daley. Wolfe would bring Daley home with the final run of the game, as Seiler slammed the door shut, striking out three of his last four batters, nailing down Albany Academy's second straight Class B crown with an 8-4 win.
Neither pitcher was sharp. Seiler finished with eight strikeouts and five walks in earning a hard fought victory. Yankowski, for his part, fanned four, hit two, and walked four, but was betrayed by his defense at a critical juncture of the game. Once again, the Riders came up short.
Up next for Albany Academy will be a state regional at Ogdensburg Free Academy on Thursday. For the seniors, such as Young, Seiler, & Birch, a state title would be icing on the cake.
Earlier, the Class D title required an extra frame before Fort Plain upended Whitehall, 10-6, in eight innings. With all the scoring, coupled with the defensive & pitching shuffling employed by both coaches, the game swelled to nearly three hours, delaying the start of the Class B title game by about a half hour or so, such that the Riders-Cadets game was played under overcast skies, in contrast to the opener starting in humid conditions. Well, the crazy weather shouldn't have been a surprise after all.