May 27, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
What the Fayetteville-Manlius baseball team will experience on Friday night, when it ventures to NBT Bank Stadium to face Auburn for the Section III Class AA championship, will prove memorable.
But it would have to go a long way to match the high tension and swings of emotion that Monday night’s AA semifinal against West Genesee at Onondaga Community College provided.
Shut down for much of the game, and then taking control, and then seeing victory snatched away at the last possible moment of regulation – the no. 4 seed Hornets went through it all, and somehow managed to emerge with a 5-3 victory over the top-seeded Wildcats.
That it would prove so exciting wasn’t too much of a surprise, given that both of their regular-season meetings were one-run decisions, with the road team prevailing on each occasion. Yet even those games didn’t provide the sudden twists that this playoff encounter would.
WG’s Evan Reichel, the same pitcher who tossed 4 2/3 innings of relief the week before to beat F-M 6-5, started on this night, and held the Hornets to one hit (Anthony Nucerino’s bunt single) over his first five innings of work.
Meanwhile, Hornets pitcher John Schurman mostly contained the Wildcats, but still saw WG get a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on Colin BeVard’s RBI single.
Two innings later, with two on and two out, Schurman exited and Sean Brown took over in relief, only to have Reichel deliver a single that scored BeVard to make it 2-0. Given the way Reichel was pitching, that two-run margin seemed a lot larger.
But in the sixth, F-M turned the game around, starting with Brown’s single. Then, with two out, Matt Truman blooped a single just over second base and Brown, running with the pitch, startled the Wildcats by racing all the way home.
Before WG could recover, Josh Loeffler singled and stole second, and Mike Hoalcraft drilled a single that scored Truman and Loeffler, pushing the Hornets to a 3-2 lead.
Brown protected that lead until the bottom of the seventh, when he came within one pitch of ending it.
Will Randall led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a flyout. Then Brown got two strikes on Matt Van Allen – but as catcher Nate Olson tried to call time, Brown flinched, and the umpired called a balk that allowed Randall to trot home with the tying run.
Stunned by this turn of events, F-M went meekly in the top of the eighth against WG reliever Sean McConnell, who pitched 2 1/3 effective innings of relief. Then an F-M error put the winning run at second in the bottom of the eighth, but Brown escaped from it.
The Hornets were glad, in the top of the ninth, not to see McConnell on the mound. New pitcher Ryan Greco walked Loeffler and Hoalcraft, and Sean Beney replaced him – but Olson, perhaps atoning for the balk, delivered a bloop single that scored Loeffler. Moments later, a wild pitch scored Hoalcraft.
Working his fourth inning of relief, Brown, in the bottom of the ninth, saw Randall reach on an error and go all the way to third. BeVard walked to put the tying run on base again, but with two out, Brown reached back for one more fastball and struck out pinch-hitter Nick Davis to end it.
Now F-M faces red-hot Auburn in the sectional final. Despite its no. 7 seed, the Maroons have won eight of nine, knocking off no. 2 seed and defending state champion Baldwinsville 2-1 in the quarterfinals and no. 3 seed Liverpool 10-2 in the semifinals.