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On the road to Niskayuna

Bethlehem 15s close in on Eastern New York Babe Ruth title and regional berth

Bethlehem third baseman Brian Harder throws to first to get a Kingston runner out during a pool play game in the Eastern New York State Babe Ruth 13-15 year old tournament Sunday, July 20, at Guilderland’s Dutchmen Field in Keenholts Park.

Bethlehem third baseman Brian Harder throws to first to get a Kingston runner out during a pool play game in the Eastern New York State Babe Ruth 13-15 year old tournament Sunday, July 20, at Guilderland’s Dutchmen Field in Keenholts Park. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— The Bethlehem Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Stars scrapped their way to another playoff victory.

Bethlehem scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on its way to a 3-2 win against Kingston in the final pool play game at the Eastern New York State Babe Ruth Championships Sunday, July 20, at Guilderland’s Dutchmen Field.

The victory gave Bethlehem a 3-0 record in pool play and a berth in the semifinals Monday, July 21, at Dutchmen Field in Keenholts Park. The winner of the tournament advances to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, which begin Friday, Aug. 1, in Niskayuna.

“Our first team goal is to get to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals,” said Bethlehem coach Scott Kniffin. “Our second goal is to have fun playing baseball because if you’re not having fun, what’s the point of playing?”

Bethlehem’s 15-year-old division team was in danger of not making the state tournament after it lost in the second game of the district championships. But Bethlehem strung together five straight victories to claim the district title and advance to states, where it has since extended its overall winning streak to eight games.

“They’re a very resilient bunch,” said Kniffin. “They understand that if they play well and do the things they are capable of doing, they can find a way to win.”

Pitching and defense have been strong suits for Bethlehem during its post-season run. Through pool play, Bethlehem has allowed four runs at the state championships – one of the lowest totals of any of the eight teams in the field.

“We pride ourselves on our defense and pitching, and when we hit we are very tough to beat,” said Kniffin.

Scoring runs hasn’t always come easily for Bethlehem. Outside of an 11-run outburst against Poughkeepsie in the opening round of the state tournament Friday, July 18, Bethlehem has scored five or fewer runs in three of its last four contests dating back to its 2-1 victory over Rotterdam in the district final.

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