Three pitches, especially the first three pitches of a baseball game, are far from enough to decide any kind of outcome.
Yet it was what took place on that initial trio of deliveries that would start to send the Liverpool Warriors spiraling down to a 10-2 defeat to Auburn in Monday’s Section III Class AA semifinal at Onondaga Community College.
They had met twice earlier in the month, Liverpool winning both games by the same 3-2 margins. But those games came at a time when the Maroons were in the process of turning its season around after a slow start.
And by the time they played again, Auburn was a confident group, having just eliminated no. 2 seed and defending state champion Baldwinsville 2-1 in the previous round. Just how confident was something the Warriors’ starting pitcher, Don Pauldine, would immediately find out.
On the game’s first pitch, Pat LaDouce singled down the right-field line. On the very next pitch, John Rizzo doubled to nearly the same spot in right. Then, on the third pitch, Matt Brooks delivered a fly ball that scored LaDouce with the game’s first run.
An error put Justin Valentino on first and Rizzo on third. Then, as Valentino stole second, Rizzo scored, and Steve Bennett tripled home Valentino to make it 3-0 before Eric Gatewood singled to score Valentino.
With that, Pauldine was done, replaced on the mound by Ryan Stott, but he couldn’t keep the Maroons from adding to its total with single runs in the second and third innings. Auburn got to Bobby Zywicki, too, with three runs in the fourth to make it 9-0, plus a run in the seventh, aided by three Liverpool errors.
Not until the bottom of the seventh did the Warriors get on the board against Maroons pitcher Hunter Charles, who went six-plus innings before tiring late with a pair of walks.
Casey Komanecky replaced Charles, and run-scoring singles from Michael Wright and Jason Schulz broke up the shutout, the Warriors loading the bases before Pauldine grounded out to end it, sending Auburn to the AA final against Fayetteville-Manlius (who beat West Genesee 5-3 in nine innings) Friday night at NBT Bank Stadium.
Liverpool finished its season with a record of 15-7, and will see eight seniors depart, including Schulz, Pauldine, Nick Claver, Dalton Horton, Ben Terzini, Luke Gilbert and Tim Cerniglia. Others, such as Zywicki, Stott and Rick Sisto, should return in 2015.