Jun 05, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All spring long, the Baldwinsville baseball team operated with the understanding that two outstanding pitchers, Pat Merryweather and Scott Blewett, were capable of carrying them all the way to the top, so it only figured that they would team up to insure a second consecutive berth in the state Class AA final four.
With Merryweather getting the start and Blewett going the rest of the way in relief, the Bees defeated Section II champion Shenendedhowa 4-0 in Tuesday night’s AA regional final at DeLutis Field in Rome.
Not only was the pitching sound, but the Bees got yet another big hit from Jake Norton, whose solo home run sparked a three-run fifth inning that put the Plainsmen away.
More than a week had passed since B’ville had defeated Oswego in the Section III Class AA final, ample time for both of the Bees’ aces to rest from its post-season exertions.
Head coach Dave Penafeather said the plan to split the pitching duties was formed while watching Shenendehowa beat Shaker 3-2 in last Friday’s Section II final. He said that Merryweather’s ability to throw strikes against a potent Plainsmen lineup was important early in the game.
Shen didn’t get overwhelmed by Merryweather, putting six runners on base in his four innings of work. Every time, though, the Bees escaped thanks to superb defense, including a 1-4-3 double play in the top of the second. Merryweather said he wasn’t as nervous to pitch as he was in other games, and felt comfortable after his prolonged post-season rest.
B’ville had the same trouble with its chances against Plainsmen pitcher Greg Geisel, who appeared to be gaining control when he struck out the side in the bottom of the third to strand Josh Demoski on third base and keep the game 0-0.
But in the bottom of the fourth, Gabe Levanti helped put the Bees in front. He led off with a single, took off for second on Merryweather’s grounder to avoid a double play, stole third, and came home on Jimmy Schmidt’s hard grounder up the middle.
All along, said Penafeather, the plan was to bring in Blewett in the fifth, and he arrived with a 1-0 lead. Soon, though, he would have a much bigger cushion, thanks to Norton and his teammates.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Norton came up. He had already produced an 11th-inning game-winning hit in the sectional quarterfinals against Auburn and a triple that led to the winning run in the next round against Syracuse East.
Here, he sent Geisel’s fastball high and deep over the left-field fence, a solo home run that made it 2-0.
“Everything has clicked in the post-season,” said Norton, and Penafeather agreed. “Jake loves to be out here and loves to compete,” the coach said. “Nothing bothers him.”
B’ville wasn’t done in the fifth. A single and throwing error put Levanti and Josh Savacool in scoring position, and after Shen reliever Brian Warzek walked Merryweather to load the bases, Zach Leo delivered a two-run single.
Blewett handled it from there, the Plainsmen stranding two more baserunners in the sixth before the B’ville right-hander retired Shen in order in the seventh to end it.
Now the Bees could look ahead to its trip to SUNY-Binghamton, where on Saturday at 10 a.m. it will take on Ward Melville (Section XI) in the state semifinals. The winner of that game plays in the 4 p.m. state final against Clarence (Section VI) or Arlington (Section I).
Norton said the team’s experience, gained from its state semifinal visit in 2012, will have them ready for the challenges this time around, and Blewett added that playing for their community is a huge motivating factor.
“Our mission is to bring the state title back to Baldwinsville,” said Blewett.