SYRACUSE Combined, the Westhill and Homer baseball teams sported a 22-0 mark when they got together for the first of two highly-anticipated regular-season showdowns on Thursday afternoon.
And the battle did not disappoint, the state Class B no. 1-ranked Warriors and no. 5-ranked Trojans matching each other until the pivotal sixth inning, when a heads-up defensive play sparked Westhill to a 2-0 victory.
Both sides sent their aces to the mound. Homer right-hander Peyton Boice met Westhill left-hander Alex Godzak, the latter in his first start since a no-hitter against Skaneateles on April 25.
Through three innings, it was 0-0, and Godzak had already recorded six strikeouts to Boice's five. Homer's Brent Quinlan spoiled any no-hitter plans with his one-out double in the top of the second, but Godzak used a couple of strikeouts to escape further trouble.
Boice was just as cool, though. Tyler Thomas, in the fourth inning, and Will Downs, in the fifth inning, both drew walks and found their way to second base. Each time, Boice induced inning-ending groundouts.
So it was 0-0 going to the sixth inning, just as it was eight days earlier at Skaneateles. And now, just like then, that inning would prove decisive.
In the top of the sixth, Homer's Chase Davis drew a one-out walk on four pitches and promptly stole second base. When Kevin McNeil legged out an infield hit on a slow grounder to short, Homer had runners on first and third, and still only one out.
Enter Westhill's freshman center fielder, Mike Burton, into the drama. Boice, with a chance to put the Trojans in front, hit a fly ball to Burton, playing at medium depth, and Burton made the catch, preparing to try and throw out Davis as he attempted to score on a possible sacrifice fly.
However, as the ball was in the air, Burton said that his teammate, right fielder Jeff Lobello, noticed that McNeil, instead of staying on first base, had drifted off the bag. Making a split-second decision, Burton threw to first, where Joe Meluni completed the double play and ended the inning before Davis could cross the plate.