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Briarcliff Baseball a Win Away From State Final

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – The Briarcliff Bears baseball team has been here before.

The Bears are one win away from returning to the Class B state championship game and will face Albany Academy in the state semifinals Saturday in Binghamton.

Briarcliff High School coach John Consorti said last year’s run to the state title game has carried over into the 2012 season.

“I think it was a tremendous help last year. Having gone through it just last year, a good number of the same kids on the team understand how you have to play and understand that there’s ups and downs from each game,” Consorti said.

Two of those players to whom Consorti referred are pitchers Spencer Kulman and Paul Henshaw. Kulman will pitch Saturday, and, if the Bears advance, Henshaw will pitch in the state finals. Consorti said Henshaw has shown he will rise to meet the challenge should he get the opportunity, and praised Kulman for his growth this season.

“(Kulman)’s been outstanding so far this year. He’s very competitive,” Consorti said. “There’s no situation that he’s not ready for. I think both of our guys will be ready.”

Briarcliff stumbled a bit on its way to the state semifinals. The Bears needed a two-out, sixth-inning rally in the regional final Tuesday against Babylon to advance to the next round. They faced a nearly identical situation in the sectional finals last year and won that game en route to the state finals.

The Bears do not typically play from behind and would like to avoid such a situation this weekend. But if they do have to overcome a deficit, Consorti is confident they can.

“I think the experience and having done it before with that confidence that they’re capable of coming from behind” gives the team the edge, Consorti said. “Games are seven innings long. Anything can happen in a baseball game. If you stay strong mentally, you have your best shot of overcoming any obstacles that are in your way.”

The Bears had a light practice Wednesday and a regular practice Thursday. They will leave for Binghamton at 8 a.m. Friday and practice at 3 p.m. After batting practice Saturday morning, the game begins at 10 a.m.

Consorti said that the team’s unity and identity has carried them to this point, and the coach expressed pride in what they have already done.

“The strength of the team is the team itself,” Consorti said. “We’re a talented team, obviously, being where we’re at, but they put the team first and they just want to be successful and win it. I give them a lot of credit. To even get back to the states is quite an accomplishment.”

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