A big first inning was all that Columbia needed to win the Section II, Class AA baseball title.
The Blue Devils scored four runs in the top of the first, and pitcher Nolan Gaige shut the door from there as Columbia defeated Christian Brothers Academy 5-1 in last Friday's Sectional final at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy.
He had good command of all his pitches, said CBA coach Dave Doemel. "We got him into trouble a couple of times, but you have to give Nolan Gaige credit. He made his pitches when he needed to."
The big blow came when Ian Gaule launched a two-run homer over the right-center field wall in the top of the first inning to give Columbia (21-4) a 4-0 lead. CBA attempted to get back in the game when it loaded the bases in the fifth, but Gaige worked out of the jam without giving up a run.
CBA (15-7-1) had made a habit of comeback wins during its playoff run. The Brothers rallied to defeat Colonie in the quarter-finals and Bethlehem in the semi-finals before their magic ran out in the finals. CBA scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and got the winning run with a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Bethlehem 5-4 in last Wednesday's semifinal.
Doemel gave credit to his young pitching staff and catcher Dave Russo for getting CBA to the finals.
"On opening day, when you're looking at your top two returning starting pitchers being unable to pitch ... you don't know where your wins would come from," said Doemel. "I give (Russo) credit for doing a great job working with our young pitchers, and I give (our four starters) a lot of credit."
The Brothers graduate several key players this year including Casey McPartlon, Josh Lewyckyj and Dan Kutny.""