MOREAU - Only several outs away from losing the Adirondack League Championship, the Lake George Warriors staged an historic comeback Friday against challenger Fort Ann to win the title 4-3.
With the Lake George crowd somber starting out the bottom of the seventh inning in the league title game held at Moreau Recreation Field, Fort Ann intentionally walked Lake George Senior slugger Jake Nelson.
Then the game broke open.
Lake George team captain Peter Gaibrois, who only 20 hours earlier switched positions with Nelson in the batting order, whacked a solid hit into a gap in right-center field, past the Fort Ann outfielders who were playing shallow.
The hit sent Warriors Richard Kandora and Nelson, who had been advanced to third and second due to a balk, across home plate for the advantage needed to win the game.
"As soon as I saw the balk, I knew it was gonna happen," said Bruce Nelson, Jake Nelson's father. "I also knew that if they put Jake on base, they'd pay for it."
Lake George coach Erik Hoover said he and the players had decided on the switch to take advantage of Fort Ann if they tried to avoid Nelson, who's tallied 10 homeruns this season - so far.
"This was the first time I used this lineup - It couldn't have been planned any better," he said. "I guessed if they walked Jake, they'd have to face team Peter Gaibrois, a consistent hitter, and we'd have a good chance to get a run."
Hoover said the comeback caught him by surprise.
"We were down and out, but the players dug deep and never quit, and they produced when it counts," he said.
"I'm still in shock," the coach said, minutes after he was dunked by celebrating players.
Richard Kandora opened up the comeback spree with a drive over the third baseman's head.
"I was thinking 'comeback'," he said after the game. I just played as usual, and it just happened."
Lake George Athletic Director Kathy Stanilka said the game offers a good lesson for all.
"Athletes should always remember, it ain't over until it's over," she said. "We're so proud of them."
Nelson said that when Gaibrois' bat struck the ball, he knew that Lake George had a solid chance at winning.
"When it was hit, I looked at the center fielder's face, and I knew he didn't have it," he said. "And I knew there was no way I wasn't scoring, even if I broke my leg."
Nelson looked at his celebrating teammates and smiled.
"The baseball gods helped us out today, huge."