A coach starting three freshmen in the infield and a first-year sophomore starter at catcher is inclined to try and keep things as simple as possible.
Heuvelton baseball coaches Dave Steele, Logan Ladouceur and Andy Rupert have taken that approach to success. After two losses to championship caliber teams in an 1-2 start, the 18-2 Bulldogs have reeled off 17 straight wins to claim their program’s first New York State Class D Final Four appearance since 2006.
The Bulldogs meet Southern Tier power Hancock (18-2) at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Broome Community College. The Bulldogs enter ranked third in the state’s Class D poll and Hancock is fourth while riding a seven-game win streak.
Heuvelton has won four straight Section 10 Class titles and Hancock owns a five-peat in Section 4. The other semifinal will see No. 1 Smithtown Christian (13-3) of Section 11 squaring off with Batavia-Notre Dame from Section 5.
The Bulldogs’ only losses came were a 3-0 decision to New York Mills in their season opener on April 21 and 4-1 at Harrisville on April 25.
“Those early losses were very important in terms of determining the things that we had to work on with our young players,” said Steele of freshmen infielders Andrew Woodard, Cole Piercey and Colin Trathen and sophomore catcher Jordan Macaulay.
In the win streak, the Bulldogs’ formula has been to put the ball in play on offense, get the sure outs on defense and throw strikes on the mound.
A pair of first team All-Northern Athletic Conference West Division selections in Mike Martin (7-2) and Jack Palmer (6-0) have delivered on the mound, while the team has been sure-handed in the field and locked in for contact at the plate.
Palmer picked up victories in the sectional and regional title games, with Martin closing after hurling complete game semifinal wins.
Senior outfielders Dylan Liscum and Aidan Scagel were second team all-star selections. Rounding out the starting lineup are sophomore designated hitter Ben Jacobs who is hitting over .300 batting ninth and right fielder Joe McDonnell.
Macaulay said he and his teammates wanted to send Liscum and fellow seniors Aidan Scagel, Jack Palmer, Joe McDonnell and Jared Ladouceur to the Final Four.
Hancock is led by the all-state battery of pitcher Ryan Smith (32-5 career) and catcher Eli Horton.
The state title game is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday.
SOFTBALL TEAM MEETS ARKPORT
When it comes to strengths and weakness, Heuvelton seniors Alexis Weidner, Logan Tallman and Rachel Thornhill point to team chemistry as being a major asset to the Bulldogs perfect 20-0 season.
The Bulldogs seniors also know what disappointment feels like as they prepare for Saturday’s New York State Class D final four.
When the Bulldogs take to the field at Moreau Athletic Complex in South Glens Falls on Saturday at 9 a.m., against Section 5 champion Arkport, they will be looking to erase a bitter memory of a trip to the final four three years ago when they lost in the semifinals against Batavia-Notre Dame.
“As a freshman being in the final four the experience was incredible,” Alexis Weidner said.
“After we lost in the first round the seniors still had their heads up because it was such an accomplishment to get so far. As a senior going back I know that the other seniors and I don’t want to just settle for getting there. We have a really talented team and we want to prove that by continuing our season.”
“My first experience at the final four is definitely something I will never forget,” Tallman said. “It’s an amazing experience but we learned a lot from it.”
The Bulldogs have six players from that 2010 final four team.
Weidner was the starting third baseman and Tallman was the team’s shortstop. Rachel Thornhill was the leadoff hitter and second baseman, Alexis Sawyer started in centerfield, and Hannah Thornhill, a seventh-grader, played her first varsity season at catcher.
Thornhill caught Sarah Sloan in 2010 and has a stalwart behind the plate. She guided Weidner and Tallman in 2013 and the pitching trio of Weidner, Paige McCormick and Tallman in 2014.
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, coach Josie Cole is proud of the team accomplishments.
“I’m just pleased on how well this team works. I know they leave everything they have on the field,” Cole said.
“Reaching the final four means a great deal not just to the team and coaches but our community,” Weidner added. “It’s not everyday that a school makes it to the Final Four let alone two teams in the same season.”