AMSTERDAM - The Warrensburg baseball team accomplished a feat Saturday May 28 that's eluded it for a quarter-century: they earned a right to play in the Section II Tournament finals.
This achievement was a result of defeating Duanesburg 7-6 in a Class C semifinal in a close, competitive game.
With the victory, the Burghers were headed Tuesday May 31 to the Joe Bruno stadium at Hudson Valley Community College to face the storied Fort Plain team at 4 p.m. for the 2011 Class C Section II Championship.
Saturday's semifinal victory was not an easy one for the Burghers. Starting out with an undisciplined approach to choosing pitches, they had three batters retired on only 11 pitches in the first inning.
Duanesburg's offense matched their defensive effort, as they scored two runs on a single and a double.
Good defense by center fielder Aaron Seeley, pitcher Jacob Siletti and second baseman Austin DeMarsh, however, ended Duanesburg's scoring streak in the first.
Warrensburg's defense also prevailed in the second inning when Duanesburg attempted a squeeze play, and Siletti fielded a bunt off the mound, tossed it to catcher Mike Curtis, and he blocked the plate and tagged the runner out in a collision that prevented a scoring run.
Warrensburg's offense revved up in the third inning after coach Rex Reynolds offered some stern comments about discipline in choosing pitches, and within minutes, the bases were loaded with Burgher runners.
Williams then hit a bunt down first base line, scoring Justin Baird, and Williams was safe at first. Moments later, Lucas Nelson scored on a passed ball, tying the score. But Duanesburg tightened up their defense and tallied three outs, leaving the bases loaded. "With six batters up in the second inning and eight in the third, we then knew the game was headed in the right direction," Reynolds said.
In the top of the fourth, Jacob Siletti led Burgher batters with a single to left center, and Mike Curtis followed with a single down third base line that eluded the Duanesburg third baseman's glove by inches. Lucas Nelson walked on four pitches, and the bases were loaded. John Joseph then hit a slow roller to third, scoring Jacob Siletti for the go-ahead run.
Williams hit the ball to the shortstop, the ball was bobbled and Mike Curtis scored, boosting the tally to 4-2 in favor of the Burghers, prompting boisterous cheers from Burgher fans and the dugout crew.
Nelson then scored on a passed ball, and the lead advanced to 5-2.
Duanesburg, which has beaten Warrensburg for two straight years in Sectional openers, struck back in the bottom of the fifth, as Siletti walked a batter and Duanesburg's Aaron Casper, headed for Division I college play this fall, slammed a double.
Duanesburg's Ben Brand, then hit a single behind first base, scoring both runners, and within minutes,the Burghers saw their lead reduced to 5-4 - and there were no outs.
Soon after, the bases were loaded, but the Burghers got out of the inning with only one more run scored, due to Curtis' catch behind home plate - he slammed his body against a brick wall to catch a pop fly. This feat allowed the Burghers to avoid facing Duanesburg's top of the order with the bases loaded - but it was then a tied game.
Under pressure at this point, the Burghers dug deep in the top of the sixth.
With one out, Curtis hit a full-count pitch to right center for a single, then stole a base. Soon after, John Joseph stepped to the plate in a two-out situation and walked on four pitches. On a balk, Curtis and Joseph were advanced to second and third.
With two outs, Tyler Williams hit a bloop single behind first base that scored both runners.
In the bottom of the sixth, John Joseph relieved Siletti, and Duanesburg's Mike Gentile hit a double that scored a runner, narrowing the lead to 7-6. But Burgher Nick Monroe's catch of a foul ball next to Duanesburg's dugout ended the inning, leaving two runners on base.
In the last at-bat, a Duanesburg batter singled, but Warrensburg's defense rose to the challenge. Joseph induced a strikeout, and their runner sprinted to second base, but Curtis cut him off with a perfect throw from home plate. After another Duanesburg batter hit a single, the top of their order was up to bat, but shortstop Justin Baird caught a pop fly to end the comeback attempt, as well as the game.
The Burgher players then mobbed Baird, Joseph and Siletti, celebrating the game that wrote a new chapter in Burgher history.
For Burgher coach Reynolds and Duanesburg coach Chris Wyanski, the Burghers' victory Saturday has a deeper significance.
In 1977, Wyanski and Reynolds faced each other in another Sectional showdown, players on the teams they now respectively coach. In that game, Warrensburg won.
Reynolds said Monday that his Burghers were now facing a David-and-Goliath situation, matched up with Fort Plain in the Class C Sectional Final. Fort Plain, which has an 18-3 record - versus the Burghers' 10-6 tally, has been to the Finals for nine straight years. Their coach, Craig Phillips, was voted National Small School Baseball Coach of the Year. Over 36 years, Phillips has amassed 657 wins. Their team has been contenders for the state championship four times, and won the coveted crown in 2007.
Reynolds said Monday his team was up for the challenge.
"Our boys are extremely focused at this point," he said. "They are playing their best of the season."
If the Burghers prevail, it will be their first Section II baseball title since 1965.