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Spartans reign as Class A baseball champs

Brian Para had pitched nearly 16 innings in the span of five days, using the same right shoulder that, when sore, kept him from appearing on the mound for the East Syracuse-Minoa baseball team for the early part of this season.

Now the senior right-hander needed one more out in Tuesday's Section III Class A final against Mexico at Rome's DeLutis Field to give the Spartans its first sectional championship since 1978.

Ahead by two runs, Para had allowed a pair of two-out singles, putting the tying runs on base -- with the clean-up hitter, Kody O'Connor, at the plate, capable of changing the entire game with a single swing.

"I didn't really think about it," said Para. "I just tried to get the job done."

Head coach John Herrington was a little more nervous. "He (Brian) was nearly giving me a coronary," the coach said.

The count worked full to O'Connor, during which time a wild pitch allowed both runners to move up into scoring position. On a 3-2 pitch, Para brought a fastball. O'Connor swung -- and missed.

Just like that, the Spartans had prevailed, 6-4, and its 29-year title drought was over, celebrated with all kinds of delight by the large ESM contingent that had made its way to Rome for the occasion.

Herrington said experience had a lot to do with it. Every starter in the final was a senior, including Para, Joe Gigliotti, Sean Halligan, Tom Sullivan, Jon Kravetz, Jason Kondra, Matt Hill, Paul Lepkowski and Chris DeCoursey.

"It (winning the championship) is huge for this class," said Herrington. "This class has done amazing things. Nothing can replace senior leadership."

Every bit of that maturity and poise was needed just to get ESM this far. It had come within three outs of elimination in the Class A quarterfinals against Vernon-Verona-Sherrill on May 24 before rallying to tie it, then prevail 2-1 in nine innings.

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