Voorheesville comes close, but loses championship to Fonda, 3 to 2

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Caught in a pickle: Fonda’s Lucas Calkins, left, gets tagged out while trying to steal home, after being in a rundown, by Voorheesville’s Alex Minnick during the bottom of the fifth inning of the Class B sectional title game at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy. Voorheesville lost, 3 to 2, on a bases-loaded walk.

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Agony of defeat: Voorheesville’s catcher Jared Paigo, lies on his back after catching ball four, which allowed the winning run to score as Fonda players race past him from the dugout to congratulate their teammate at home plate. Nick Chiseri went six-and-two-thirds innings allowing four hits, two runs to go along with three strikeouts and eight walks in the loss.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Power surge: The Voorheesville baseball team is back to the sectional finals for the third straight year after winning two consecutive titles in 2012 and 2013. Here, sophomore pitcher Nick Chiseri winds up during the Class B semifinals in Saratoga last Saturday; Chiseri threw a no-hitter against Chatham in the 5-to-2 win. The Blackbirds faced Fonda on Wednesday in the finals; Chiseri threw a no-hitter against Fonda on May 15.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Out! Voorheesville first baseman Alex Minnick stretches to make an out just before the left foot of Chatham’s Mercury Mason contacts the bag during last Saturday’s Class B semifinal in Saratoga. The Birds won, 5 to 2, and played Fonda on Wednesday in the finals.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Fumble? Mike Hennessy tries to make a play on a ground ball at shortstop for Voorheesville during the Class B semifinals last Saturday in Saratoga. The Blackbirds won, 5 to 2, over Chatham, and Hennessy made a few errors in the game, but Nick Chiseri pitched a no-hitter for Voorheesville (12-10). 

The Voorheesville Blackbirds came close, tantalizingly close, to pulling off a third consecutive class championship last night, but fell to Fonda, 3 to 2.

Playoff seeding, regular-season record, and class placement mean little to Voorheesville baseball as the team has played on its own terms in Section 2’s postseason for the last three years.

“We get down to business,” said sophomore pitcher Nick Chiseri after throwing a no-hitter for Voorheesville in last Saturday’s Class B semifinal victory against Chatham. Actually, it was his second no-hitter in a row; he threw one against Fonda on May 15.

“We don’t want to lose,” he said. “Nobody thinks of us as anything.”

Chiseri’s statement may seem bold; the Birds won back-to-back Class C titles in 2012 and 2013, reaching the state semifinals both times. Even though Voorheesville has jumped up to Class B this season, any team in Section 2 must know who the Blackbirds are by now.

“Our record and our seed doesn’t matter, and we’ve proved that before, so we’re just going to keep the wheels moving and get number three,” Voorheesville Head Coach Kyle Turski said after Saturday’s 5-to-2 win over Chatham. “There is no player on this team that has lost a sectional or regional game. They know nothing more but winning.”

The tide turned, though, at the Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy Wednesday night as Voorheesville vied with Fonda for the Class B championship. At first, the Birds’ post-season winning ways worked like a charm: Voorheesville was up, 2 to 0, after the fourth inning with Chiseri pitching confidently from the mound.

But then Fonda scored in the fifth inning — the tally was 2 to 1 — and threatened in the sixth. The Birds still had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh with a pop-up, but first baseman Alex Minnick slipped and fell when he tried to catch the ball. The batter got another life and walked and got on base.

Chiseri couldn’t consistently find the strike zone; on his eighth walk, a Fonda player scored. The score was tied, 2 to 2. The Fonda Braves had two outs; the championship hung in the balance. But the Birds just couldn’t clinch that last out.

Kristian Singh stepped to the mound but he couldn’t get that third out either. The winning run was scored on a walk. The Fonda fans exploded with cheers.

Wednesday’s defeat, though, can’t take away from a glorious postseason run and Saturday’s semifinal victory against Chatham. Hopes were had after Saturday’s game.

 “We want to do it again, prove something to our community, and the others around us to show them that we can do it, no matter who we lose,” said Voorheesville catcher Jared Paigo last Saturday. “We’re back at the Joe, again, but everyone doubts us.”

The Blackbirds have been building a championship-caliber team from year to year, Turski said. Some important players have gone, but other players are always waiting in the wings to make a significant impact.

“It started with kids like [Kevin] Connolly, [Anthony] Scaccia, and [Mike] Chiseri, and went on to [Nico] Church and [Mike] Young,” said Turski. “Now, Paigo and [Mike] Hennessy are doing it. Next year, it’ll be [Joe] Guerette, [Kristian] Singh, and [Dave] Cardona. And, the year after that, it’ll be [Nick] Chiseri, [Alex] Paigo, and Giordano.”

Turski was talking in terms of senior leadership throughout the years, but it’s not like younger players haven’t made an impression for the Birds. For example, Nick Chiseri is pitching with composure, and appears to be on some otherworldly level right now.

Chiseri, a left-hander, pitches like Andy Pettitte.

“I always knew he could be unhittable,” Turski said. “When he focuses, pitch to pitch, and doesn’t worry about anything else, he’s the most calm, cool, and collected sophomore that I’ve ever seen. Game after game, he’s pitched in every big game you could be in, so nothing is new for him.”

After Saturday’s win, Chiseri gave credit to his defense, as well as his senior catcher, Paigo, who has caught him for four years.

“They’re putting the bat on the ball, giving me a lead,” said Chiseri. “The defense is making great plays.”

Paigo said that his relationship with Chiseri is very strong. “I know what he likes, I know his tendencies, and I know what he does wrong,” Paigo said. “It’s very easy for me to pick up [on him]. When he hears from me, he settles down.”

After Chatham’s Caleb Gregg stole second base, stole third base, and then scored on a wild pitch from Chiseri in the sixth inning last Saturday, Paigo went to the mound for a talk. Next, Chiseri got Steve Munson to strike out and Joe Williams to ground out.

“He’s been a great leader behind the plate,” Chiseri said of Paigo. “He’s the voice; he helps us a lot. He’s been in these situations before; we’ve had some tough situations. He’s learned from it, and he’s helping us now.”

Voorheesville had lost to Chatham, 8 to 0, earlier in the season, but the Birds were full of life and passion last Saturday in the Class B semifinals. When Chiseri crossed home plate as the third run to score off of Paigo’s double in the third inning, he threw his fingers up like guns and let out a rebel yell.

The Blackbirds have had struggles during the regular season in the tough Colonial Council, but that adversity only makes the Birds a better team. Every season is a mirror image, Turski said.

“I don’t feel like we would be able to perform well if we didn’t have some sort of adversity,” said Turski. “It’s a testament to these teenage boys who are hopefully turning into young men, being able to put the past behind them and put the next foot forward, go day by day, and that’s kind of what we’ve been doing.”

Earlier in the season, some Birds’ players got into some off-the-field trouble, and some served suspensions. Zach Childs, one of Voorheesville’s better players, still isn’t with the team.

“We let it go,” Paigo said of hard times.

“We stay together,” Chiseri added. “Voorheesville baseball is a loving family, and everyone has each other’s backs. That’s what pushes us through this.”

So, Voorheesville will keep playing its personal brand of smart, energetic, and crisp baseball in the years to come.

Turski said that it is an honor for players to wear the Voorheesville jersey, not a right.

“Even when we do make mistakes, and things don’t go our way, we realize that we have something to represent,” said Turski as rain started to fall. “We try to represent as best as we can; we play for the guys from the past, the guys who are here now, and for the young kids who come and watch our games, and strive to be like these guys and part of this team one day.”

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