Whether it was the brink of defeat or the brink of victory, the Vernon Verona Sherrill baseball team spent a lot of time within inches of meeting its fate in last Tuesday's Section III Class A final against Whitesboro at Alliance Bank Stadium.
First came a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh inning that prolonged the Red Devils' season. Then came a hit that nearly gave VVS the championship.
When all was settled, though, the Red Devils had taken an 8-4, nine-inning loss to the Warriors, who completed its unlikely run from a no. 9 to a sectional championship.
Even though it had won 11 of 12 entering the game, and despite double-digit runs earned in playoff wins over Homer, Cortland and Watertown, VVS knew exactly how tough it would be to push past Whitesboro.
In two Tri-Valley League games during the season, they split, Whitesboro winning 4-3 the first time and VVS prevailing 6-5 in eight innings the second time. Both games were decided in the final at-bat.
And that was before Whitesboro upset top seed CBA and Oneida on its way to the sectional final, where M. J. Hajec got the start against the Red Devils' Jesse Whitmeyer.
Despite allowing a first-inning run, Whitmeyer kept Whitesboro without a hit until the fourth inning, by which time VVS led 2-1. Mitch Iseneker and Steve Davis both singled, Iseneker scored on a wild pitch and Collin Laguzza singled home Davis.
Quickly, Whitesboro regained the lead, 3-2, in the fifth, using Brendan Heitz's two-run double to pull in front as Whitmeyer (who allowed five walks and hit two others) left in favor of Iseneker, a relief pitcher with a 5-1 mark this spring.
A sixth-inning Red Devils error doubled the margin to 4-2. Hajec pitched into the seventh, earning nine strikeouts, but was pulled for Matt Engler with one out as the Red Devils tried to rally.