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Thursday, 11 June 2015 12:49

Winning Streaks: Saratoga Baseball off to State Semifinal

By | Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs High School baseball squad will look you right in the eyes and tell you that there’s no pressure heading into the Blue Streak’s state semifinal game against Orchard Park on Saturday.

That’s because they’re playing with house money right now. After running through the Section II tournament to become champions, Saratoga, a team that was eliminated in the second round of the section tournament in 2014, didn’t expect to be here.

“The pressure is on them, because no one thought we’d get this far,” Blue Streaks coach Rich Lofink said on Wednesday, just prior to Saratoga’s scrimmage with Queensbury at East Side Recreational Park. “We get to go in there and just play our game. They’re the 22-1 team.”

The game will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Union-Endicott. The winner of the game will take on the winner of Connetquot against Mamaroneck game for the New York State Championship.

It will be a great win on many levels if the Streaks can pull it out on Saturday, especially considering the coaching change they went through in mid-May, when Dean Bailey was relieved of his coaching duties for violating the Saratoga coaching handbook. Lofink, an assistant at the time, was put in the role of head coach.

“It was a personnel decision,” Lofink said.

You also need to consider the injury suffered by starting pitcher Danny Hobbs in Saratoga’s 1-0 victory over Shenendehowa on June 3 in the Section II Class AA championship game. Hobbs took a line drive to his right eye in the fourth inning, but he still stayed in the game and pitched another inning.

Lofink said myriad doctors cleared Hobbs to play. Hobbs, however, has to wear protective eye gear until doctors clear him fully.

“After the game, I wondered to myself if I’d be the same pitcher after getting hit,” Hobbs said. “But then it went away, stopped crossing my mind. I moved on from it, I don’t think it will be an issue at all. I have had a week to practice with it and get used to it.”

Orchard Park, out of the Buffalo area, won the Section VI championship, and has lost just once on the year. Lofink said he’s heard they have one righty and one lefty pitcher who are both very good, but beyond that, he doesn’t have a dense scouting report.

“It’s a clean slate when you’re playing a team you’ve never faced,” he said. “You don’t know how they play, but they also don’t know you at all, so it’s a toss up.”

During the season, Saratoga went on an eight-game winning streak, scoring at least 10 runs in each game. They finished the season losing three of their last four, before upending heavy favorite Shen in the sectional final.

Cory McArthur, the burly right-hander, is the team’s closer, and Lofink said the combination of Hobbs and McArthur make Saratoga a really dangerous team. Hobbs throws in the mid-80s, while McArthur has three pitches he can throw for strikes.

Offensively, the Blue Streaks like to play small ball.

“If we get someone on second, we are tough,” he said. “Our guys are great at moving runners over, and we steal a ton of bases. We make it difficult for other teams by playing this way.”

When asked how many runs he thinks it will take to win on Saturday, Lofink said that five is the magic number.

“We are playing teams with really good pitching, and we have solid pitching. You’re not going to see an offensive explosion,” he said. “No one thought after we scored in the first against Shen that it would hold up, but it did.”

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The last time the Streaks won the sectional crown was in 1995.

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