Scott Blewett and Pat Merryweather, with plenty of help from the guys around him, helped bring the Baldwinsville baseball team to a place it has never gone before – the state Class AA championship.
Blewett tossed a three-hit shutout in the semifinal game at SUNY-Binghamton, a 2-0 victory over Ward Melville, and Merryweather’s complete-game gem delivered the Bees past Clarence 4-1 in the championship game a few hours later on that same Binghamton diamond.
Not only was it B’ville’s first baseball state title, it was the first for any male team at the school. Girls lacrosse, soccer and volleyball teams have all gained the big prize in the last 15 years.
The entire B’ville season was geared toward this single day, with the thought that its two aces could both deliver in a high-pressure situation, and with their combined 14 innings of work, Blewett and Merryweather lived up to everyone’s high expectations.
The pair had essentially split duties in the AA regional final earlier in the week, a 4-0 victory over Shenendehowa where Merryweather started and threw four innings before Blewett went the last three innings in relief. Thus, both were fresh for their biggest starts of the spring.
First, Blewett would take the mound against Ward Melville, the Section XI champions from Long Island, and immediately got into trouble, walking the Patriots’ Anthony Kay and Greg Coman with one out in the top of the first.
After head coach Dave Penafeather went out to talk to Blewett, the right-hander escaped the jam, and then watched as Merryweather’s single in the bottom of the first scored Gabe Levanti and put B’ville up 1-0.
Determined to help himself, Blewett led off the top of the second and, on the second pitch he saw, crushed it over the fence, a solo home run. That would be B’ville’s last run, but Blewett didn’t need anything more.
Using a lethal mix of his fastball and slow curve, Blewett piled up nine strikeouts. When he wasn’t fanning Ward Melville’s hitters, he was getting error-free defense behind him as Zach Leo’s fifth-inning catch proved a particular highlight.
Right after Blewett was done dealing, B’ville watched as Clarence, the Section VI champions from the Buffalo suburbs, beat Arlington 5-2 in the other semifinal, but in the process used up its ace, Mark Armstrong, who was drafted Friday by the Cincinnati Reds.
The Bees, though, still had an ace ready to deal, and Merryweather had a particular motivation. He had missed out on B’ville’s run to the state semifinals a year ago, and was determined to take advantage of this chance and finish on top as he opposed the Red Devils’ Mark Materise.
Just as in the semifinals with Blewett, Merryweather put two Clarence runners on base in the first, but got out of trouble. And just like against Ward Melville, Levanti produced a run in the bottom of the first, this time with an RBI triple that scored Jake Norton, who had led off with a double.
Merryweather may not have overpowered the Red Devils, but he showed tremendous poise. In the third, fourth and fifth innings, Clarence got two runners on base, one hit away from tying the game or moving in front, and all three times erryweather pitched his way out of it.
Materise also thwarted B’ville’s chances and kept the game 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth. But Norton, who had produced so many big hits in the Bees’ post-season run, did so again, delivering a run-scoring double that doubled the margin to 2-0.
Not stopping there, the Bees added two more runs (scored by Norton and Levanti) off a Clarence error to make it 4-0, but it wasn’t over. In the seventh, Merryweather gave up a run on Ryan Jelonik’s single that scored Bobby Floria, and the Red Devils once more threatened, bringing the tying run to the plate.
Staying calm for one more moment, Merryweather, who surrendered six hits but earned nine strikeouts, recorded the final two outs, the 10th and 11th runners Clarence stranded, and the celebration of a landmark state championship for Baldwinsville baseball was underway.