Not only did the Cazenovia and Chittenango baseball teams face a backlog of games to make up from all the bad weather this spring, they also were wondering if they could gain enough wins to climb to the .400 mark in league or class competition needed to reach the Section III playoffs.
Or at least that was the case until last Monday, when Section III, acknowledging the scheduling issues and the possibility that not everyone would get to their full 20-game complement by this Saturday’s cutoff, waived the .400 rule for 2017, opening the sectional tournament to all teams, regardless of record.
Cazenovia, with that pressure off, won a key 3-2 decision over Marcellus last Wednesday afternoon. A two-run fourth inning put the Lakers in front, but the Mustangs tied it, 2-2, in the top of the sixth as Ethan Molinari and John Houser drove in those runs.
Staying patient, the Lakers put across the winning run with two out in the seventh to reward pitcher Matt Regan, who had held Marcellus to two hits and amassed 12 strikeouts while walking three. Evan Begley was the only Cazenovia batter to earn two hits as he and Eric Ketcham have one RBI apiece.
A day later, Cazenovia defeated Altmar-Parish-Williamstown 5-1 as pitcher Burke Regan surrendered a first-inning run but then blanked the Rebels over the next five frames, giving up just three hits and amassing 11 strikeouts before Dylan Roy worked a scoreless seventh inning for the save.
All of the Lakers’ offense was generated with a two-run second inning and three-run rally in the fourth. Ben Nichols earned a pair of RBIs, while Roy, Judson Spaulding and Josh Bauder each drove in one run,.
Making it three straight wins on Friday afternoon, Cazenovia pushed past Hannibal by that same 5-1 margin, with the Lakers taking the lead with a first-inning and then, with four runs in the bottom of the fourth, seizing control.
Begley didn’t need much help, though. The Cazenovia pitcher limited the Warriors to two hits in his complete-game effort, striking out eight to offset four walks. As if that wasn’t enough, Begley also doubled, walked twice and drove in two runs.
Regan, Spaulding and Dan Hammond got one RBI apiece as Nichols, Anders Hansen and Anthony Vecchiarrelli joined Spaulding and Regan in the run-scoring column. With the win, Cazenovia improved to 6-8 and it still has games this week against Phoenix, Solvay and Bishop Grimes.
Chittenango saw its week start with a frustrating 2-1 defeat to those same Phoenix Firebirds, where the Bears took a 1-0 lead when Mike Culkin drove home Justin Makowski in the top of the third and maintained that edge most of the way thanks to Devon Spaulding’s strong work on the mound.
Yet the Firebirds got to Spaulding in the bottom of the sixth for two runs to go in front, driven home by Josh Sutliffe and Nick Bernard, with Sutliffe then recording the final three outs as part of a three-inning stint in relief of Bernard. Joe Mosack was the only Chittenango batter to notch two hits.
It was just as close a day later against Hannibal, but Chittenango won this time, prevailing 6-5 by erasing two different deficits, first with a three-run fifth inning that wiped out the Warriors’ 2-1 edge gained by a pair of runs in the third.
Then, after Hannibal answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to go up 5-4, the Bears waited until the top of the seventh before pushing across the tying and go-ahead runs. Tim Ryder, pitching his fourth inning of relief after taking over for starter Tom Rooney, managed to get the final three outs.
Tom Valentine carried Chittenango’s attack, producing four RBIs. Makowski scored three runs, with Culkin and Mosack adding one RBI apiece. Rooney, Jacob Burgun and Noah Schnauffer also scored runs.
During Thursday’s 10-6 loss to Marcellus, Chittenango rallied from a 4-0 deficit with five runs in the bottom of the third, only to have the Mustangs regain the lead by scoring twice in the fourth and then get away with a four-run seventh inning.
Devon Spaulding took the loss, splitting the mound duties with Nick Callahan. Culkin and Valentine each had two hits, with Culkin scoring twice. Jake Schettine led Marcellus by going four-for-four with an RBI and two runs scored.