COPENHAGEN Winning a state boys basketball title was great for the Sackets Harbor program, its rabid fans and the entire Patriot Nation.
But it did have one subtle, negative affect: several of the players off that team got a late start to the baseball season because of the length of the basketball season. Which forced coach Paul Gibbs to rely on several first-year varsity players much more than he wanted to early in the season.
But after two early losses to C Division schools South Lewis and Sandy Creek, the Patriots are now on a roll. They won their 10th consecutive game Wednesday, beating second-place Copenhagen 11-1 to clinch the Frontier League D Division regular-season title.
The veterans who began practice two weeks late are now hitting their stride with the playoffs and sectionals just around the corner. Senior Zach Allen pitched two-hit ball over six innings, striking out nine against Copenhagen. Senior Cameron Allen went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs and senior Zach DAlessandro was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs for Sackets Harbor.
But the key to this Sackets Harbor club has been filling holes with talented youngsters who have been contributing all season long. Aside from the three seniors, Gibbs has assembled a starting nine consisting of a junior, a sophomore and four freshmen.
Junior Billy Newcombe, who went 2-for-4 Wednesday, has been valuable as both a pitcher and especially as the No. 1 catcher.
Sophomore Josh Keruski has filled in nicely at second base, as have ninth-graders Colton Belcher at first base and Ethan Meeks in the outfield.
The rising star of the group is freshman Ryan Allen, who has developed into a standout pitcher, has played a steady shortstop and has hit well at the top of the Patriots order.
The young guys have kind of saved our team with the way theyve fit in, Cameron Allen said after Wednesdays win. Its amazing how well theyve played because a lot of them would probably still be on JV any other year.
Gibbs said he knew his three seniors would eventually get over the basketball championship hangover. But the young kids have really surprised me with the way they play and understand the game.
Keruski drove in a run with a fielders choice in the top of the second. But Copenhagen (7-6) matched that run in the bottom of the inning as Colin Hess singled and scored on a Connor Berrus double.
However, those would be the only hits that Zach Allen allowed. By far his best outing of the year, Gibbs said of his senior right-hander, who threw around 70 pitches and walked only one.
Sackets Harbor got two more runs in the third on an RBI double by Zach Allen and a RBI single from Newcombe, and two more in the fourth as DAlessandro doubled home a run and Cameron Allen singled in a run.
Newcombe, Meeks and Belcher started a six-run fifth with consecutive base hits. DAlessandro cleared the bases with his second double of the game, and Cameron Allen singled in the final run.
Cameron Allen needed just 10 pitches to toss a scoreless seventh inning in relief, striking out the final two Golden Knight batters.
As Sackets Harbor begins its postseason run, Gibbs has an abundance of well-rested arms. No pitcher has started more than three games, and he has five or six capable hurlers who can take the mound.
Its a luxury to have that many pitchers at a small school, Gibbs said. And they are all still fresh. But we still need to stay hungry.
Said Cameron Allen: Were just starting to build momentum for the playoffs and sectionals. Today was like a lot of days this season with lots of different guys contributing.
Copenhagen coach Jim Spaulding, despite the loss, is thrilled with the way his young team has performed. If you had told me a month ago wed win seven or eight league games and been in second place, I would have taken it in a second.