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BH-BL Spartans celebrate first state title in baseball

Not even rain could prevent the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake baseball team from winning its first-ever state title.

The Spartans scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning, and they never looked back as they defeated defending cham-pion Pittsford Sutherland (Section V) 8-2 in Sunday's Class A title game in Binghanton.

It was an impressive finish to a season that started with BH-BL losing six of its first nine games.

Like I told my team, it's not how you start your season; it's how you finish, said BH-BL coach Paul DeLuca. "We got hot at the right time."

The Spartans (17-10) were ready to play the championship game Satur-day afternoon, but rain washed out those plans. BH-BL then had to wait until late Sunday afternoon before taking the field against Sutherland.

"They were as loose as can be [Saturday night]," said DeLuca. "We stayed at a hotel overnight, and they had fun."

Sutherland threatened to put an early end to BH-BL's fun. Three of the first four Knights to come to the plate reached base, leaving starting pitcher Devin Stark in a bases-loaded bind.

BH-BL's defense bailed Stark out, though. Nick Barra lofted a fly ball to right fielder Jayson Sullivan for the second out, and Sullivan fired a strike to catcher Dave Russell to get Hunter Merrill out at the plate to end the threat.

The momentum from Sullivan's double play car-ried BH-BL into its three-run rally in the bottom of the first inning. Keaton Flint belted a two-run double and then scored on Jeff Heck's base hit to give Stark a cushion to work with.

Stark settled in and kept Sutherland off balance with an array of pitches. He also let his defense do a lot of the work, as BH-BL made putout after putout.

"He pitched a great game," DeLuca said of Stark, who also earned the complete-game victory in last Tuesday's regional final win against Franklin Academy (Section X). "He pitched to contact, and we played errorless baseball behind him."

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