The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY)

Clifton Park heads west for World Se­ries re­turn

- By STAN HUDY shudy@sarato­ Twit­ Sports · College Sports · Clifton Park, NY · Cal Ripken, Jr. · Aberdeen, MD · Maryland · Arkansas · Washington · Babe Ruth · Babe Ruth · Moses Lake, WA · Ian Anderson · Bryant

CLIFTON PARK — A lot can change in two years for the Clifton Park Knights who will rep­re­sent the Mid­dle At­lantic Re­gion for the sec­ond time in two years as the lo­cals will com­pete in the 14-year-old Babe Ruth Base­ball World Se­ries at Moses Lake, Wash­ing­ton.

The Knights are big­ger, older and more ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter qual­i­fy­ing for the Cal Rip­ken Base­ball Ma­jor/ 70 World Se­ries in Aberdeen, Md. two years ago, the gem of the or­gani- za­tion’s small field pro­gram.

Now they take their tal­ents to the reg­u­la­tion base­ball di­a­mond on the left coast.

“I think we have learned from our past mis­takes re­gard­ing our pitch­ing,” Clifton Park man­ager Tom Huerter said. “We’re go­ing to uti­lize all of our pitch­ers.

“We are go­ing to make sure that we get through pool play with­out hav­ing to throw some­one six or seven in­nings and 80 to 100 pitches,” Huerter said. “We are go­ing to man­age

that. That’s go­ing to be im­por­tant for us.”

The Knights sta­ble of arms in­clude Ian An­der­son, Michael Jef­fers, Kevin Huerter, Michael Spul­nick, Johnny Cady and Kurt Forsell who frus­trated teams from through­out the Eastern seaboard dur­ing the Mid­dle At­lantic Re­gional hosted by Clifton Park a week ago, al­low­ing just three runs in six games.

“We are go­ing to use those same six kids and try to man­age four games over five days,” Huerter said. “We’re in as good of a po­si­tion as we have ever been with our pitch­ing staff and that’s with­out Nik Malachowsk­i who has been in­jured all year and would be one of best pitch­ers. The depth of our team, from a pitch­ing stand­point, is still strength of this team.”

Be­com­ing only the sec­ond Clifton Park Base­ball squads to ad­vance to a World Se­ries berth in 2012, the Knights were treated like rock stars in Aberdeen, Md., show­ered with free equip­ment, and em­braced by the me­dia and the tour­na­ment host, Cal Rip­ken Jr.

It was a wide-eyed va­ca­tion for the 12- year- olds, now this sec­ond act is more of a busi­ness trip.

“In Aberdeen, each player was with their fam­i­lies in a ho­tel room over­look­ing the fields and was a great set-up, but there is a dif­fer­ent level of ex­cite­ment and a dif­fer­ent ap­proach this time,” Huerter said. “We can see it with the kids, I think it’s a ma­tu­rity be­cause they’ve been to a World Se­ries and been in big games, hope­fully is a huge plus for them.”

The Knights will ad­just to stay­ing with host fam­i­lies, a tra­di­tion within the Babe Ruth Base­ball League or­ga­ni­za­tion and have a chal­leng­ing bracket.

“Right out of the gate we play (Bryant, AR) that won the World Se­ries in Wash­ing­ton last year,” Huerter said. “I like the mind­set, I like the po­si­tion that this team is in right now. They are play­ing con­fi­dent, but they know if they don’t play well, they’ll lose and hope­fully they just play well.

“They are stay­ing with host fam­i­lies, they have a team­mate as a room­mate and they are cu­ri­ous,” Huerter said. “That as­pect, in a good way, has taken the pres­sure off the game and put a lit­tle fo­cus on what the liv­ing ar­range­ments are go­ing to be.”

The Knights have also ad­justed to play­ing on the reg­u­la­tion base­ball di­a­mond, mov­ing up from their suc­cess on the 50-foot pitcher’s mound and 70foot base paths as a 12year-old squad.

“As a coach you can’t ex­pect a kid to step up to the plate with a man on first and sec­ond, down by three and ex­pect him to tie the game,” Huerter said. “You’re hop­ing for two more hits, or three more hits or a walk, a hit bats­man, some­thing.

“I think they are pretty steady be­cause of the game on the large field where they know they are a good team de­fen­sively, we don’t give up too many runs, so if they don’t score runs in an in­ning they han­dle that well,” Huerter said. “When they do score runs, three or four in an in­ning, they un­der­stand that it could be the knock- out punch be­cause how well they play de­fense and how good our pitch­ing has been.”

Clifton Park went 4-0 in the Mid-At­lantic Re­gional pool play, earned a bye to the semi­fi­nal and cap­tured the fi­nal giv­ing up just three runs in six games.

“What I’m hop­ing we’re rested from the long trip on Fri­day, ready to play against a very good team and if we can get that first game that will set us up well be­cause they won the World Se­ries last year,” Huerter said. “You have to think they are go­ing to be in the thick of things when pool play gets over with.

“We’ve got two games against teams that qual­i­fied for the World Se­ries, and then we play the host team,” Huerter said. “If we are 2- 0 when we face the host team, then you have to like our chances be­cause we’ve beaten two very good teams.”

While the Knights cruised to their sec­ond World Se­ries berth, Huerter couldn’t guar­an­tee a World Se­ries ti­tle.

“With 14-year-old base­ball, if our bats go to sleep or we start to kick it around we could eas­ily lose to any team,” Huerter said. “If we play well and get beat by an­other team, I have no prob­lem with that. If we go out there and don’t play well, they don’t play to their po­ten­tial that would be the only dis­ap­point­ment.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA