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Rivals square off on legendary field

After months of fund-raising, Conant and Mascenic play extra innings at Baseball Hall of Fame in N.Y.

With each text message received on Friday afternoon, I wished I had made the trip to Cooperstown.

As the innings passed and the Conant and Mascenic baseball teams got deeper into yet another instant classic in the long standing rivalry, I kicked myself for not going to see them play on the famous Doubleday Field at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Then it went to extra innings tied at one. Conant senior Devin Springfield and Mascenic senior Jalen Rines were locked in a pitching duel that added yet another chapter to the history of this great series.

“There are not a whole lot of opportunities to do something like that in high school,” said Mascenic coach Kevin Rines.

After eight innings, the score was still tied at one. Mascenic struck for one in the top of the ninth to take a 2-1 edge. Sophomore Jared Stauffeneker walked, got to second on an error and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Justin Somero’s squeeze bunt brought in Stauffeneker for the go-ahead run.

But Conant still had three outs to make something happen. Freshman CJ Bilodeau walked and got to third on Ryan Carey’s double. Then senior Eddie Clark, who relieved Springfield with one out in the top of the ninth, doubled to score both Bilodeau and Carey for a walk-off 3-2 victory.

“I ended up picking up the win and got the game-winning hit. I couldn’t ask for anything more to go right,” said Clark. “It felt good coming out with a win in that game on that field.”

Conant scored its only other run in the bottom of the first and the Vikings tied the score at one in the top of the second.

But from there it was all about the pitching. Each team had a couple chances, including a bases loaded situation for Mascenic with one out in the top of the seventh, but could not push the go-ahead run across.

And when they did break through in the ninth, it looked as though the Vikings would even the season series after being dismantled on their home field, 11-1, on April 22. Then Conant came up with the big hits.

“It was pretty surreal, being able to have that kind of game at the Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Springfield.

It was a long day for Mascenic. Not only did they play almost nine full innings against the Orioles, but that was their second game of the day. It was the sixth year that Mascenic had made the trip to Cooperstown and third in the last four years. The original plan was for Mascenic to play Campbell, but when Conant inquired about the trip, the Vikings took on the doubleheader.

“It was definitely a good experience. It brought us together as a team,” said Jalen.

So all three teams made the four-plus hour drive. Mascenic and Campbell played at 10 a.m., which the Vikings lost 3-2, and then Conant and Mascenic’s first pitch came a little before 1:30 p.m.

“We were playing two of the better teams in our division. I knew it was going to be tough,” said coach Rines. “But we definitely stepped it up. If we can play that level of baseball against two teams in our division that will be there in the end, that’s got to be a confidence booster.”

And no one probably had a longer day than Jalen Rines. He caught all seven innings of the first game, also accounting for both Mascenic runs with a double in the fifth, and then pitched eight-plus frames versus the Orioles.

“I’d have to say my arm was pretty sore after the day,” said Jalen. “But it’s one of those things I’ll remember most out of my high school career.”

The teams also toured the Hall of Fame and even stayed at the same place, the August Lodge. Both Conant and Mascenic fundraised enough money to pay for the entire trip, including the cost to play at Doubleday Field.

But it was worth it. Not many high school athletes can say they’ve had that kind of experience and I can guarantee that none will ever forget it.

“Playing on Doubleday Field, winning in walk off fashion and how I pitched will definitely stand out,” said Springfield.

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