PLATTSBURGH — The Clinton County Junior Mariners are in today’s championship game in the Next Level Baseball League Tournament.
But this is not the way the Mariners wanted to get there.
After Anthony Monaco hit a seventh-inning home run, the Saratoga Junior Stampede edged out a 1-0 victory over the Mariners at Lefty Wilson Field on Saturday to advance to the title game.
The Stampede were able to overcome an outstanding pitching performance by Andy Kneussle, who struck out 12 and allowed six hits.
Because of a prior commitment, however, the Stampede, 2-0 in the double-elimination event, returned home Saturday night and will not play for the championship.
The Mariners and Montreal Titans U17, who both have one loss, were scheduled to play in an elimination game today at 10 a.m. That will now be the championship game.
“It stinks,” Mariners coach Gary Duquette said. “We wanted to play them (Saratoga) again. Nobody on our team is happy about losing today, and now we don’t have a chance to exact revenge of them.
“I’m proud of our kids — they hustle all the time and give 100 percent. They wear their hearts on their sleeve. Believe me, nobody on our team was happy with the outcome of today’s game.”
Winning pitcher Codie Brown went the first six innings for the Stampede and was taken out after hitting the leadoff hitter in the seventh. Bobby Gates came in and recorded three outs for the save.
“We struck out only four times and put the ball in play,” Duquette said. “We put more pressure on them than they did on us. But we couldn’t get the big hit when we needed to.
“We had two runners on in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.”
The Mariners’ best chance came when Caleb Keysor tried to score on Shawn Courson’s single to center in the sixth inning. It was a close play at the plate, and Keysor was called out on a great throw by the Stampede’s Brandon Hipsley.
“It was a tough call — it just didn’t go our way,” Duquette said. “Their player did make a great throw.”
Kneussle kept Saratoga at bay until the seventh, when Monaco hit a drive to right center that hit the top of the fence and plopped over.
“It’s a shame Kneussle had to take the loss,” Duquette said. “He pitched great and had the 12 strikeouts.”
Brandon Buksa, Keysor, Quenton Barber and Courson had hits for the Mariners, who fell to 18-4 on the season.
Barber will get the pitching start today against the Titans.
In elimination games Saturday, the Vermont Outlaws rolled to a 12-0 victory over the Whitehall Railroaders and the Titans edged out a 5-4 decision over the Outlaws to move into what is now the championship contest.
Stampede 1, Mariners 0
Stampede 000 000 1 — 1 6 1
Mariners 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
Brown, Gates (7) and Coffey. Kneussle and Hartman. WP- Brown. LP- Kneussle. Sv- Gates. HR- Monaco (S).