GLENS FALLS — The ball soared into deep center field for what felt like forever.
If it dropped, Whitehall would score not only the tying run in the Adirondack League Championship, but the winning run would’ve likely crossed, too, in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But if centerfielder Nick Sumner, who started his night on the mound striking out four and allowing only two runs, caught it, then the game would end and the Golden Horde would capture their first league title since 2010.
Sumner, the lone senior on a young Granville team, called everyone off as he raced in a dead sprint straight ahead.
When the ball smacked the webbing of his glove, ending the game and securing a 3-2 victory Friday night at East Field, Sumner never stopped running until a wall of his teammates stopped him near the infield and the celebration commenced.
“The grit and determination of these kids helped us hold on,” coach Cory Burton said. “They get fired up, but they stay calm and do the right thing. We gave Nick the ball knowing it meant a lot to him. He pitched really hard and it was so fitting for him to make the final out.
“We started on March 9 and coach Pat, who is an alumni, looked up and said ‘Do you want to put something on that banner? Then it starts today.’ And since then they have bought in.”
Capturing its first league title since winning the Wasaren League nine years ago did not come easy as a powerhouse like Whitehall, seeking its second consecutive Adirondack Championship, came in undefeated.
Early, it looked as if the Railroaders would capture their 12th straight victory as Whitehall jumped out two-run lead in the first inning.
But Sumner gathered himself and pitched five scoreless innings after that, including a final stand in the bottom of the fifth.
“(Nick) is the strong, silent type,” Burton said. “He does not say much but when he does, the kids listen. He knows baseball. His IQ is through the roof and he has spread that to these guys. As the only senior, there are 70 other kids in that class and he is the only one that decided to play baseball.”
Whitehall needed a rally. It’s once-fast start had faded.
Railroaders coach Keith Redmond huddled his squad prior to the bottom of the fifth as Whitehall trailed by two.
Whatever he said in those moments worked.
With one out, Jake Moore laid down a smooth bunt down the third base line, easily reaching first, and an overthrow sent him to second. Austin Barnao struck out but not before a wild pitch sent Moore to third.
Then the battle began.
Thomas Fish came to the plate for a showdown against Sumner.
As Sumner hit the double-digit pitch mark during the at-bat, Sumner was running out of gas.
Fish forced him to the pitch-count limit, meaning this was Sumner’s last batter he’d face. With a runner on third, Fish finally got a hold of something, and it carried deep into right-center field.
Whitehall’s fans cheered and its dugout rose in anticipation for what looked like the tying run. But Golden Horde rightfielder Thomas Roberts covered ground and made a sprinting catch, ending the inning.
For Sumner, holding off the Railroaders proved to be his last stand on the mound, but his heroics were needed to end the game in center field two innings later.
“I didn’t move. I just wanted to watch it,” Burton said of the moment the Horde won. “I wanted to see it because it has been a long time for the school and it has been a lot of work. I’ve been with the team for seven years and it is a lot of late nights. So this was beautiful, and that (ball) really up there, but I was confident and it was a perfect ending.”