May 27, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Driven by high emotions and a determination to join the elite, the West Genesee baseball team planned for a long stay in the Section III Class AA playoffs.
Yet it could not have imagined that, when it did so, it would constitute one of the most remarkable 48-hour stretches in the program’s history.
During that time, the Wildcats went from an innocuous no. 4 seed to a confident, hard-charging sectional finalist – and did so in the most spectacular way possible.
As an opening act, WG beat Central Square, 1-0, in Thursday’s AA quarterfinals as ace pitcher Casey McIntosh threw a perfect game.
And somehow, the Wildcats managed to top that feat on Saturday, going to Gillette Field and blasting no. 1 seed Cicero-North Syracuse 11-3 in the AA semifinals.
All this great work sets WG up for Tuesday’s championship game against Utica Proctor, played at DeLutis Field in Rome.
McIntosh’s bout of perfection was nice – but WG knew that toppling the Northstars, the dominant team in Class AA for much of the spring, would be even greater.
In stark contrast to WG’s air-tight battle with Central Square, the Northstars blew away Rome Free Academy 18-2 in the quarterfinal round, and its 20-1 mark included a 10-3 win at Camillus on May 8.
Instantly, though, the rematch between the Wildcats and CNS had a different tenor.
On back-to-back pitches by Jeff Benz in the first inning, Casey Reale and Ray Sova got plunked and reached base. Both would come home, as Brent Hagen hit an RBI single and Jeremy Connors coaxed a bases-loaded walk.
Benz got pulled, in favor of Grant Nadeau (who was the winning pitcher in that May 8 game), and he settled down enough to allow CNS to tie the game, 2-2, by the end of the second inning.
Then came the top of the third, a half-inning that will long live in Wildcat lore.
Connors and Steve Menges both singled with one out, putting runners on first and third. Conor Thompson brought a run home with a sacrifice fly to put WG back in front, 3-2.
And that was just the first blow. Six more runs would follow, all coming with two outs, as a series of singles produced two of those runs, and Reale provided the biggest blow of all, a three-run home run over the left-field fence.
Up 9-2 now, WG tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning and watched CNS fall apart, three times having runners tagged out at third base or home, wasting the 13 hits it put on the board.
Despite giving up all those hits, Wildcat left-hander Al Schoeneck remained calm and steady, going all seven innings to earn the biggest win of his varsity career.
Now all that stood between WG and the sectional title was Utica Proctor. The Raiders got this far by beating Liverpool and Fayetteville-Manlius in the playoffs, but were likely to face McIntosh, fresh off his perfect game — not to mention a full squad of Wildcats that now felt that a championship is destined for them.