SYRACUSE Little about the Westhill baseball team's 2012 season has been easy, despite an 18-4 record and a top seed in the Section III Class B-1 playoffs.
So it only figured that the Warriors' 6-5 victory over no. 5 seed Vernon-Verona-Sherrill in Saturday's B-1 semifinal was a tense, close affair not decided until Kevin Karleski drove home the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
This win sends Westhill to Monday's B-1 final at Rome's DeLutis Field, where it will face Utica-Notre Dame. The Jugglers, as the no. 3 seed, have already knocked off two OHSL Liberty division teams in the playoffs, first eliminating defending champion Marcellus (5-1) and then driving out Homer 8-3 in the semifinal round.
Westhill almost didn't make it to Rome, watching as VVS scored three runs in the top of the third inning to seize a 3-0 lead. An exchange of runs followed, but the Warriors still trailed, 4-2, through four frames.
It really got fun in the sixth, when Westhill pulled even 4-4. To this point, Joe Meluni was carrying the Warriors' attack, earning hits in all four trips to the plate asnd earning a pair of RBIs.
In the decisive seventh, VVS tagged Warriors reliever J.C. Pena for a run. Trailing 5-4, and three outs from elimination, Westhill put the tying and winning runs on base against Red Devils reliever Jesse Whitmeyer, and Karleski's decisive single brought them home.
Pena, Karleski, Will Downs, Jacob Nigolian, Tyler Thomas and Alex Godzak scored one run apiece, with Nigolian picking up a pair of hits.
Just up the road, the season ended for Class A's no. 3 seed, Bishop Ludden, who took a narrow 3-2 home defeat to no. 7 seed New Hartford in the sectional semifinals.
The Spartans had now knocked off both sides of the "Holy War" rivalry, having taken eight innings to eliminate CBA 6-5 in the quarterfinals two days earlier.