May 24, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At many different moments on a dreary Thursday afternoon, it looked like the Westhill baseball team would have to cede its Section III Class B title to someone else.
But the no. 2 seed and defending champions refused to blink in its Class B quarterfinal against Hannibal, and a timely late rally, with some help from the opponent’s defense, helped produce a 2-0 victory.
An hour’s rain delay did little to dampen the effort that both Warrior teams displayed, especially that of the guys on the mound – right-hande J.C. Pena for Westhill, left-hander Greg Pitcher for Hannibal.
Through five innings, it remained 0-0. Pena cruised, for the most part, until the top of the fifth, when Hannibal got a runner on third with one out, only to see Pena strike out Trevor Alton and, after an intentional walk to Jake Shortslef, get Chris Benedict to ground into a force play to end the threat.
Going to the bottom of the sixth, it was still 0-0 when Pitcher, who had yet to allow a hit, gave up a one-out walk to Ben Walsh. Then Jim Albright hit a deep fly ball to right field that dropped for Westhill’s first safe hit of the game.
Walsh, waiting to see if the ball got caught, started late, but looked to end up on third base – until he saw the ball fumbled in right field, allowing him to race home with the game’s first run. Albright ended up on third and scored seconds later on Dan O’Brien-Mazza’s single.
That was all Pena would need. In the seventh, two more Hannibal runners got on base, but Pena struck out Benedict to end the game, his 11th K.
As they started out on their respective Class B playoffs journeys – Westhill trying to hold on to the crown, Solvay trying to take it from them – it started quite well.
During Tuesday’s opening round, the no. 2 seed Warriors shut out no. 15 seed General Brown 12-0, while the no. 4 seed Bearcats fended off no. 13 seed Adirondack 4-1.
Westhill broke it open against General Brown with a four-run third inning, adding two runs in the fourth and five runs in the fifth as support for Walsh and Kevin Drexler, who combined on a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts, Drexler going three innings in relief.
Pena reached base and scored all four times he came to the plate. He also had two RBis. Albright, Kevin Karleski and Eddie Kiernan matched Pena by driving in two runs apiece. Drexler added a hit and RBI.
Solvay, meanwhile, won its 12th consecutive game in a patient manner, poking across single runs in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings to negate a solid pitching effort from Adirondack ace Justin Kranbuhl.
John Savo had two hits, the only Bearcat to do so, and earned three stolen bases, while leadoff man Brandon Pelose scored twice. Davis Kippen and Josh Rutkowski each had one RBI. Dan Fantacone, pitching a complete game, held the Wildcats to four hits and struck out nine.
As Westhill was knocking out Hannibal, Solvay saw its Class B quarterfinal against no. 12 seed Skaneateles postponed until Friday afternoon. The winner of that game would face top seed Clinton in Saturday’s semifinals.
Bishop Ludden, the no. 12 seed in Class A, did not make it out of the first round, falling to no. 5 seed Christian Brothers Academy 3-2 in the latest “Holy War” chapter.
The Gaelic Knights struck for both of its runs in the top of the first, as Jack Rauch’s single drove home Kyle Hawk and Jared Taylor. For a while, ace Cory Poplawski made that 2-0 lead stick.
But in the bottom of the fourth, Camillo Spinoso got a hit, and Webb Little caught a Poplawski offering and drilled it over the fence for a game-tying two-run home run. Then Poplawski walked Andrew Gacek, who came all the way around to score on an outfield error of Sam Little’s fly ball.
Poplawski struck out 10 and only surrendered five hits. Yet the Brothers held on as Tim Pierret shut down Ludden in the last three innings to earn the win.