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Section II baseball: Salem vs. Whitehall

Salem catcher Ben McAlonie braces to catch the ball as Whitehall's Austin Barnao slides home during their Section II Class D semifinal on May 29 at Veterans Memorial Park in Saratoga Springs.

So, the Whitehall Railroaders take things personally. Look where it’s led.

The Railroaders, fueled in part by a sectional finals loss last year and the perception they were being overlooked at the beginning of this season, find themselves preparing for a Class D baseball state semifinal against South Kortright at 5 p.m. Friday at MacArthur Park in Binghamton.

There’s no shame in losing to Fort Plain, a two-time state champion and part of Section II baseball royalty, but since Whitehall was the number one seed in last year’s Class D tournament, it took the loss to the Hilltoppers in the sectional final to heart.

“That loss stung,” Whitehall coach Keith Redmond said. “The kids who returned from that team, they wake up every day thinking about it. It’s serious motivation.”

Redmond said that this year’s team had five returners, four of whom started, and he said their added maturity showed from the beginning. And the newcomers had not only played on a successful junior varsity team the year before, but had played over the summer and fall to improve and become contributors right away.

Take a motivated team and add outsiders’ indifference, and then you’ve got a team that was as driven as the Railroaders were this season.

“We saw preview stories that talked about Fort Ann and Hartford-Fort Edward and Lake George. They felt they were forgotten about,” Redmond said.

Section II teams won’t make that mistake again. Whitehall (15-2) is ranked first in the state. One of its two losses came to Class B Saratoga Catholic and its pitching ace and Wasaren League MVP Terel Tillman by a 1-0 score.

Whitehall then beat two Section II opponents by a combined score of 19-4 en route to that title. It then manhandled Livingston Manor 21-0 last Saturday for the regional title.

Much has been written about Whitehall’s offense and how there isn’t a weak link in the lineup. All true, Redmond said, but the pitching and defense have been lights-out, too.

“When we’ve got Ethan Patch, Thomas Fish and David Camara throwing hard at practice, that’s as good as it gets,” Redmond said. “I think we have a big advantage seeing that pitching in practice.”

Whitehall is vying for its first state title since 1984, when it won the Class C-D crown, and along the way there have been many congratulatory texts and emails from the small, tight-knit community, including one from Whitehall Sports Hall of Fame member Paul D’Amico in Florida.

“This group of kids,” Redmond said, “has had total baseball support from T-ball on up.”

If the state rankings are an indicator, the semifinal will be a tough battle. Whitehall is ranked first in the state, followed by Section IV champion South Kortright (16-2), which is riding an 11-game win streak and making its first state semifinal appearance.

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Follow Will Springstead on Twitter @WSpringsteadPSV.

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