May 30, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With only six outs remaining, the West Genesee baseball team stood poised to end three decades without a Section III championship.
Everything was ideal in last Tuesday night’s Class AA final at DeLutis Field in Rome. The Wildcats enjoyed a 2-0 lead over Utica Proctor going into the bottom of the sixth inning and had its senior ace, Casey McIntosh, on the mound, ready to put things away.
The Raiders never let them get those last six outs, though. A sixth-inning rally tied it, and Jason Simone’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh led to a 3-2 Wildcat defeat as Proctor earned its first sectional title since 2001.
Win or lose, though, WG had been part of a memorable game that climaxed an incredible post-season run that included McIntosh’s perfect game against Central Square and the subsequent toppling of top seed Cicero-North Syracuse in the semifinal round.
Somehow, the title game managed to be even more exciting — even if the result was not what long-suffering Wildcat baseball fans wanted.
Casey Reale was the second batter of the game. On a 3-2 pitch, he ripped an A.J. Bates fastball well over the left-field fence, the home run sending WG’s large fan contingent (some students even painted their chests with uniform numbers of the players) into an even louder frenzy.
Staked to a quick 1-0 lead, McIntosh gave up an infield hit to the first Proctor batter he faced, so perfection was out of the question. He still was spectacular, though, in the bottom of the first, as the senior right-hander picked off two Proctor runners who reached base.
Over the next four innings, the pitchers would continue to rule. Bates settled down from Reale’s moon shot and allowed just two hits over that span, while McIntosh allowed three more singles, yet constantly used his mix of speeds to escape possible trouble, piling up eight strikeouts by the end of the fifth inning.
In the top of the sixth, WG got some insurance. Dan Connor led off with a single, and pinch-runner Craig Smith moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then advanced to third base when a Bates pick-off attempt was thrown wild.
Reale, seeing all this at the plate, added his latest dose of plate heroics by hitting a chopper that bounced over the head of third baseman Jack Lottermoser and into left field, scoring Smith and making it 2-0 in the Wildcats’ favor.
Most teams, down two runs and facing a pitcher of McIntosh’s considerable talent, would be in deep trouble. Proctor is not like most teams.
Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Mark Van Dreason hit a bloop single. Simone, already two-for-two for the night, followed by crushing a double to the wall in left field, allowing Van Dreason to score and make it 2-1.
After Mike Mason singled to move Simone to third base, Joe Barry bunted. WG recorded the out at first, but Simone took off for home, and slid in just under Conor Thompson’s tag to score the tying run.
With the go-ahead run now on second, McIntosh settled down and fanned both Bates and Sean Redmond, giving him 10 strikeouts for the night and keeping it 2-2.
WG tried to go back in front in the top of the seventh. With one out, Steve Menges singled. Steve Bliss ran for him, and stole second base. After Thompson struck out, Brent Finizio swung on strike three — but the ball got away, and Finizio reached first base.
Instead of the inning being over, the Wildcats had runners on first and third, and another chance. Pinch-hitter John Schlegel tried to break the tie, but he looked at strike three, Bates’ 12th strikeout of the night, and the game was still even.
McIntosh watched in the bottom of the seventh as Lottermoser led off with a line drive that grazed off shortstop Joe Kesler’s glove into left field for a single. Rafael Corder attempted to sacrifice pinch-runner Rob Roth, yet managed to beat out the throw for a base hit.
Facing real trouble, McIntosh managed a force play at third base for the first out, and had two strikes on Van Dreason. But after two pitches were fouled off, McIntosh got wild and hit Van Dreason, loading the bases for Simone. His towering fly ball was caught in center field, but Roth raced home with the decisive run.
And like that, WG’s season was over. It had gone 16-6, and after years of chipping away under head coach Kevin Krause, finally broke through the ceiling and became a championship contender, capped by its memorable run through the playoffs.
Now the Wildcats must replace six seniors. McIntosh is off to Colorado State, and Finizio, Reale, Bliss, Brent Hagen and Al Schoeneck follow him to graduation.
A lot comes back in 2008, though. Kesler, Menges, Thompson, Schlegel, Ray Sova, Garrett Smith, Dan Connor and Jeremy Connors form a strong core of Wildcats that will take the experience it gained this spring — and hope to go one step further.