The ride continues for the Clifton Park Bulldogs.
Starting pitcher Mason Munger tossed six innings of two-hit ball to lead Clifton Park to a 4-1 victory over Guilderland in Friday morning's Babe Ruth World Series semifinal at Clifton Common.
The victory moves Clifton Park into Friday night's championship game against Tri-Valley (Calif.), which defeated Glen Allen (Va.) 6-4 in the other semifinal.
"It really means a lot because at the beginning of the year, we talked about [making the finals] a lot, and now we're here," said Munger, who was named Clifton Park's most valuable player of the game.
Guilderland starter Alex Varsanyi also pitched well, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning. However, the Guilderland defense committed four errors, which led to all of Clifton Park's runs.
"Usually, we play very well in the field, and we just didn't," said Guilderland manager Brian Grabek. "Give credit to Clifton Park. They took advantage of our mistakes."
Zach Sargent got Clifton Park going in the bottom of the first inning. After working a five-pitch walk, Sargent stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. Then with two outs, Matt Alverson walked and stole second. As Alverson raced toward second, Guilderland catcher Casey Chase threw wildly to third base, which allowed Sargent to score the game's first run.
With Alverson at second, Josh Capitula hit a grounder to shortstop Cameron Long, who threw it wildly to first base. Alverson raced around third and scored to give Clifton Park a 2-0 lead.
"That [inning] was huge because that put the pressure on them," said Clifton Park manager Matt Frey.
Munger and Varsanyi continued to shut down opposing batters through the next three innings before each of them allowed a hit in the fifth inning. Munger's first hit allowed was a one-out single by Ryan Cullan, and Varsanyi's first hit allowed was an infield single to Sargent, which was preceded by a Guilderland error that allowed Munger to reach base.
Munger and Sargent pulled off a double steal to move into scoring position. Munger then came home when relief pitcher Kristian Singh threw his pickoff attempt into left field to make the score 3-0. Richard Drum drove in Sargent from third with a squeeze bunt back to Singh to put Clifton Park ahead 4-0.
Guilderland got a run back in the top of the sixth inning off two Clifton Park errors on the same play. With two on, Long hit a ball that was mishandled by third baseman Frankie Pizzo and went into left field. Jack Grabek, who was on second at the time, came around to score when Alverson's throw from left field sailed over catcher Mike Gillooley.
Munger eventually loaded the bases on a two-out walk to Cullan, but he got out of it by inducing Max Schiller to ground out to Pizzo.
"The kid's a competitor," Frey said of Munger. "He's got ice water in his veins."
Alverson relieved Munger in the seventh inning and got into trouble when he walked two Guilderland batters with one out. A misplayed ball by Drum at shortstop loaded the bases for Brandon Peda, who had one of Guilderland's two hits off Munger. Peda laced a sharp grounder toward shortstop that hit Brendan Das on the fly. Das was out, but Peda reached first safely to keep the bases loaded.
"That's a tough play," said coach Grabek. "It was hit so hard that there was no way that Brandon Peda could get out of the way."
Alverson ended Guilderland's last-ditch rally by getting Long to pop out to Capitula at first base.
Clifton Park now looks to become only the fourth host team to win a Babe Ruth World Series title, while Guilderland settles for a third-place finish.
"We really had a great year, and I couldn't be prouder of my guys," said Grabek.