May 20, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Heading into the Section III Class B playoffs, the Westhill baseball team is favored again to finish on top, but judging by the way it has played down the stretch, Solvay is a worthy challenger after it broke a 28-year league championship drought.
When those two neighbors gathered once more last Saturday afternoon in the regular-season finale, the Bearcats prevailed, 4-3, extending its win streak to 11 games and ending the Warriors’ 12-game win streak at the same time.
Remembering how close it played Westhill in a 3-1 defeat on April 26, Solvay got itself out of early trouble, only trailing 2-0 when it scored three times in the bottom of the third as Brandon Pelose and John Savo both had run-scoring hits.
Westhill pulled even, 3-3, in the fifth, and it stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh. With Brandon Pelose on second base and J.C. Pena on the mound, Jake Cintron hit a grounder, but it got flubbed, and the speedy Pelose tore home with the winning run.
Cintron also pitched a complete game, allowing six hits and five walks, but constantly halting the Warriors’ attempts to gain control and outlasting Westhill starter Sam Walsh, who went three innings before Kevin Drexler and Pena relieve him.
It had already been a busy and eventful week, highlighted by the Bearcats tying Cazenovia for the OHSL Liberty National division regular-season title with Friday’s 5-3 victory over Jordan-Elbridge. It’s Solvay’s first league title of any kind since 1985.
A pair of first-inning runs got Solvay moving, and it led 3-0 after three innings, answering the Eagles’ run in the fourth with two of its own to make it 5-1.
Savo and Fantacone continued to tear it up at the plate, each getting a pair of RBIs, while Cody Pucello managed a pair of hits. Brandon Pelose scored twice as Fantacone pitched four innings to earn the win, with relief help from Savo, Josh Call and Brandon Franklin.
By far, the key game in Solvay’s league-title push was last Monday’s tense 8-6 victory over Cazenovia, where it started fast, and then had to hang on.
Solvay bolted out to a 3-0 lead by the third inning. Then, after the Lakers cut the margin to 3-2, the Bearcats erupted for five runs in the top of the sixth. All of those runs were needed, too, because Cazenovia got to Savo (who had relieved Fantacone) in the seventh inning for four runs. Somehow, Savo regrouped and recorded the final out.
Not only did Fantacone pitch five innings and earn the win, he also got three hits at the plate and scored twice, while Davis Kippen managed a double and two RBIs. Pelose, Jake Cintron and Sal Dahlin joined Fantacone as they each drove in one run.
And the Bearcats followed up Thursday with an impressive 13-6 victory over Class C power Bishop Grimes, bolting out to a 10-2 lead by the fifth inning with runs in each of the first five frames.
Savo, with three hits and three runs scored, led the way. Jeff Honsinger and Josh Rutkowski each had two hits and two RBIs, with Pelose scoring three times as Fantacone, Dahlin, Pucello and Kippen each drove in one run.
Westhill had quite a week, too, starting last Monday as Pena spun a no-hitter in his team’s 1-0 win over Marcellus.
It stayed 0-0 through three innings, Marcellus ace Colin Smith matching Pena, but in the bottom of the fourth the Warriors put across the only run it needed when Pena legged out a triple and cruised home on Jim Albright’s single.
Smith blanked Westhill from there, getting solid defense behind him as he had just two strikeouts and only allowed six hits. But Pena, off a 21-strikeout, nine-inning effort against Bishop Grimes the week before, was in a groove again, earning 12 strikeouts and got error-free defense behind to preserve the slim margin, as well as the no-hitter.
During this homestretch, Westhill’s most satisfying effort was Thursday’s 5-2 victory at Phoenix, because it avenged the team’s only loss to a local foe this spring, a 3-2 home defeat to the Firebirds back on April 17.
Ben Walsh, in his last start before the playoffs, would not be quite as sharp as in weeks past, giving up six hits, but he struck out nine and blanked Phoenix until the bottom of the seventh, when the Firebirds scoring twice, forcing Pena to come in and get the last two outs for the save.
Westhill scored twice in the first and then was quiet until it earned single runs in the fifth and sixth innings and added two runs in the seventh that proved valuable. Dan O’Brien-Mazza doubled and drove in three runs, while Pena, Dan Albright and Sam Walsh each drove in one run.
Pena’s second start of the week, on Friday, resulted in a 4-0 shutout of Hannibal. Though he gave up five walks, Pena still limited Hannibal to three hits and put up 13 more strikeouts.
A run in the first inning was all that was needed, but Westhill tacked on two more runs in the fourth and a run in the seventh as Ben Walsh picked up a pair of RBIs, while Pena doubled and drove in a run of his own.
In last Tuesday’s non-league game against Syracuse East, there wasn’t a no-hitter, but the Warriors still won by a 6-3 margin. Matt McMullen hit a home run and earned two RBIs. Albright and O’Brien-Mazza also drove in runs.
When the Class B playoff bracket came out on Sunday, Westhill had the no. 2 seed and Solvay the no. 4 seed. Neither team has a bye, so they both have to play Tuesday in the opening round – the Warriors against no. 15 seed General Brown, the Bearcats against no. 13 seed Adirondack.