Westhill's baseball team could not avoid a giant target as the top seed and overwhelming favorite to win the Section III Class B championship.
More than anyone else, Bishop Ludden, as the no. 5 seed, wanted a shot at the Warriors -- and would get it on Saturday as the two neighbors dueled in the semifinal round.
Yet this meeting, like two previous encounters on May 3 and 16, would turn out in Westhill's favor, as it jumped all over the Gaelic Knights and never let up until it had a 9-2 victory safely in hand.
It was Westhill's 24th consecutive win, and brings the Warriors to Wednesday's championship game at Alliance Bank Stadium against OHSL Liberty division rival Skaneateles, who ripped Holland Patent 15-3 in the other semifinal.
In the bottom of the first inning, after the Gaelic Knights seized a quick 1-0 lead, Westhill tagged Ludden pitcher James Murray for three runs, then did the same thing off Ryan O'Kane in the bottom of the second to make it 6-1.
It was 8-1 before Ludden scored again, and by then, Westhill was safe. Ryan Malley pitched most of the way, earning the victory as he and reliever Pat Lemmo held the Gaelic Knights to seven total hits.
Meanwhile, Mike McMullen scorched Ludden for four hits, including three doubles, as his average improved to .576. Lemmo, Mike DeCarr and Len Graf each had two RBIs, with Malley and Nate Nigolian joining McMullen with one RBI apiece.
Even the Warriors could not escape opening-round nerves last Tuesday afternoon, but it recovered to get an 8-5 victory over no. 16 seed Herkimer.
When the Magicians put together a three-run first inning, Nate Nigolian exited the mound, and Ryan Malley took over. Malley would go five innings and earn the win, with Pat Lemmo seeing a relief stint.