May 27, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A Westhill baseball season that started with a battle over senior J.C. Pena’s eligibility that got decided in State Supreme Court ended with Pena on the mound, trying to deliver a Section III Class B championship.
But Pena could not quite pull it off, and another band of Warriors, from Clinton, managed to prevail 5-3 in Monday’s Class B final at DeLutis Field in Rome.
It was a clash of the sectional tournament’s top two seeds, though Westhill came in with all the recent history of success, having won three of the previous four sectional titles and state championship in 2009 and 2010.
Clinton, the top seed, ignored all this pedigree and played on even terms with Westhill, the sides trading early runs as, twice, Clinton went out in front, by scores of 1-0 and 2-1, only to have Westhill answer both times to pull even.
Pena, who hit a solo home run in the top of the third inning, was pitching on three days’ rest, a necessity since ace Ben Walsh had taken the mound a day earlier, tossing a three-hit shutout as the Warriors beat Vernon-Verona-Sherrill 7-0 in the Class B semifinals.
Before the game, a long discussion between the coaches and umpires took place regarding Pena’s pitching motion, which Clinton coaches claimed was illegal. Westhill coach Bob Weismore said the delay, and the controversy, upset Pena, but he settled into a rhythm and fared well in the game’s middle section.
Anthony Rizzo, Clinton’s pitcher, was also working on three days’ rest, and he was just as effective. Clinton head coach Tom Pfisterer called Rizzo a “pure pitcher” whose ability to stay around the plate forced Westhill hitters into bad contact, and easy outs.
Entering the bottom of the sixth, it was still tied 2-2. Westhill appeared to escape trouble when Pena picked off Mike Hayduk following Hayduk’s one-out single. But then Pena walked Andrew Hobika and Justin Jandke, putting runners on first and second with two out.
That brought up Steve Ford, who proceeded to hit a fly ball to left field that kept carrying, over the head of Jeff Lobello and to the wall, allowing pinch-runners Mason Whip and Ruben Hernandez to fly home with the go-ahead runs. Seconds later, Alex Dobrzenski singled home Ford.
Trailing 5-2 going to the seventh, Westhill almost got to Rizzo before it was too late. With two outs, Walsh singled, Kevin Karleski reached base on an error, and Jim Albright also reached base thanks to a throwing error, cutting the deficit to two.
Now, with the tying runs on base, Dan O’Brien-Mazza stepped up, and he made good contact, but hit into a game-ending force play, and Clinton had the sectional title.
“We can’t be perfect all the time,” said Weismore. “But we still had a great season.”
To get to the title game, Clinton had eliminated Skaneateles 5-3 in the sectional semifinals. Before that, Skaneateles had put an end to no. 4 seed Solvay’s remarkable post-season run by prevailing 10-5 in last Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
The Bearcats led 3-0 through four innings, only to surrender that advantage when Skaneateles batted around in the top of the fifth and scored six runs, and the Lakers didn’t let up, either, tacking on four more runs in the sixth to get away.
Dan Fantacone took the loss, with Jake Cintron and Josh Rutkowski also seeing pitching stints. Fantacone and Cody Purcello each had two hits. John Texeira and Sepp Martin led Skaneateles with two RBIs apiece as the Bearcats’ season ended with a 15-4 mark that included a share of the OHSL Liberty National division regular-season title.
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