The Saratoga Springs High School baseball team should hold its collective head as high as it can, smile and bask in the glory of a second place finish.
The Blue Streaks made their way to Endicott last weekend to compete for the state championship, entering the semifinal game as an underdog with not much to lose. They ended up eliminating Orchard Park in that game in nine innings to advance to the title tilt against Mamaroneck, where they were defeated 9-2. It was Mamaroneck’s third state title in the last eight years.
There aren’t any moral victories in sports, but what Saratoga did is as close to one as I have ever seen or heard about. Not only was the team an underdog heading into the tournament, but the Streaks have had quite a roller coaster season.
In May it was announced that coach Dean Bailey was being relieved of his coaching duties for violating school policy, and that assistant coach Rich Lofink would take over. For anyone who has ever played a team sport at the high school level or higher, you know that it’s not at all easy to deal with such circumstances.
It wasn’t an issue for Saratoga. The athletes on the team all seem to have a professional quality about them, as they were able to handle the dismissal in stride and not be affected and have their season unravel.
Saratoga also had an eight-game winning streak at one point, and its offense exploded for at least 10 runs during each of the games. However, the Blue Streaks dropped three of their final four regular season games heading into the Section II tournament, which for most teams would have been the worst possible time for that to happen.
To make matters even more difficult, stud starting pitcher Danny Hobbs took a line drive off his eye in the 1-0 win over Shenendehowa in the sectional final, making his status moving forward in doubt. It was Saratoga’s first title since 1995. After doctors gave him protective eyewear, Hobbs was able to come back and pitch admirably throughout the state tournament.
Lofink told me prior to the state semifinal that Saratoga had nothing to lose. The Blue Streaks certainly played that way, displaying a fearless style against an Orchard Park team that entered the game with just one loss.
For a squad that was eliminated in the first round of the 2014 Section II tournament, this season’s state runner-up marking displays a marked improvement. The guys on the team all believe in themselves and their teammates, which makes the Blue Streaks a scary team for opponents heading into 2016.
Saratoga took the good with the bad, banded together and made its mark as one of the best teams the school has ever seen. The 2015 Blue Streaks are probably the best baseball team in the school’s history, and they overcame a lot of adversity to get to that point.
So for all they endured, the Blue Streaks can consider a season-ending loss to be a gigantic victory for a team that never once quit.