May 30, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As the sun set on Memorial Day at Rome’s DeLutis Field, the Bishop Ludden baseball team again found itself playing for a championship.
In this case, it was the Gaelic Knights matching up against Canastota in the Section III Class B-2 final, a rematch of the 2006 title clash at Alliance Bank Stadium.
And the result would be just the same. The final turned into Ryan Poplawski’s show, as the left-hander starred both on the mound and at the plate to help the Gaelic Knights beat the Canastota Raiders 3-2 and repeat as B-2 champions.
This sets up a neighborhood duel for the Class B championship Thursday at 4:30, back at DeLutis Field, between Ludden and Westhill, who took the Class B-1 title earlier on Monday with a 7-3 win over Marcellus.
It didn’t take long for Poplawski to take over against the Raiders. After striking out two Canastota hitters in the top of the first inning, he led off the bottom of the first — and drilled the first pitch from James Lesher well over the left-field fence for a home run.
With the score still 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Poplawski came back to the plate after Mike Solan drew a one-out walk. Perhaps as retaliation, Lesher threw inside at Poplawski — who answered on the next pitch with a single to left field.
After stealing second, Poplawski and Solan came home on John Rooney’s perfectly placed single to right field, extending Ludden’s lead to 3-0.
Those runs proved to be important. By the top of the seventh, Poplawski had struck out 12 and allowed just two hits, but it nearly fell apart.
Mike Hibbard led off the Raiders’ seventh inning with a double, after which Lesher reached on an infield hit. Pinch-hitter Jon Sicilia hit an RBI groundout, making it 3-1, and Matt Ghezzi followed with a single to put the tying run on base.
Another pinch-hitter, Devon Moore, could only manage a groundout, but that scored Canastota’s second run, cutting the margin to one, and moved Ghezzi to second base, meaning that the tying run was in scoring position.
Steve Kroll was up, and he hit a line drive — right at second base, for the out, ending the game and giving Ludden the B-2 championship.
To reach the final, the Gaelic Knights had to win twice in the B-2 bracket, including a weekend road test that did not turn out to be too taxing.
As the no. 3 seed in the B-2 tournament, the Gaelic Knights hosted no. 6 seed Mount Markham in last Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
Immediately, Ludden showed its ability to win when it mattered most, riding Rooney’s steady pitching to a 3-0 victory over the Mustangs.
Rooney allowed six hits, but never let a Mount Markham runner cross the plate and stayed patient, waiting for his offense to come through.
It did so in the bottom of the fifth inning, as the Gaelic Knights tallied all three of its runs. Ryan Ross and Dan Fadden both were credited with an RBI in this decisive outburst.
This sent Ludden to Saturday’s B-2 semifinal against no. 2 seed Lowville, who took out Herkimer 4-1 to get this far.
Unimpressed by the company or the road challenge, the Gaelic Knights took over early and never released the throttle until it had beaten the Red Raiders 8-2.
Already ahead 1-0, Ludden struck it big blow in the top of the third inning, when it tagged Lowville pitcher Matt Roggie for five runs. Terry McFadden did the rest, giving up just seven hits in his complete-game effort on the mound.
Fadden’s late tear at the plate continued, as he doubled and drove in three runs. To help his own cause, McFadden had two doubles and two RBIs, while Solan earned one RBI.
As this was going on, Canastota was knocking out top seed Hannibal 3-2, a come-from-behind effort that took out a serious threat — yet also alerted Ludden to the fact that the Raiders could do the exact same thing in the finals, at the Gaelic Knights’ expense.
The Gaelic Knights met that threat, and would now deal with its closest rival. Westhill and Ludden played twice in the regular season. Both times, the Warriors won. Ludden will try to prevent a third defeat, and repeat as Class B champions at the same time.