New Hartford’s Paul Maurizio pitches the Spartans past VVS in game one on Sunday.
By Ray Biggs for My Hometown Sports
While the field at Donovan Stadium was far from playable on Saturday, a rescheduled day two of the 2014 Oneida County Stop DWI Baseball Classic was well worth the wait on Sunday.
Six of the area’s top teams, including State-Ranked Clinton and New Hartford, came ready to do battle in three games that were a true showcase of the best high school age talent Oneida County has to offer.
Team MHTS was there in force all weekend long to bring you every pitch of the 2014 edition of the classic.
Game 1: New Hartford Survives A Scare, Stays Unbeaten
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The unbeaten New Hartford Spartans trailed 1-0 with only three offensive outs to work with, but a three run seventh inning propelled the state’s No. 2 ranked team in Class A to a 3-1, come from behind win over Class B Independent Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.
The Spartans were able to escape with a 1-0 win over Whitesboro on Friday, Apr. 25, while the Red Devils lost to the same Whitesboro team by way of the suicide squeeze play the day before.
The Red Devils seemed virtually unintimidated by the Spartans as they took the field, and it was a normally potent New Hartford lineup that would learn early that runs would come at a very high premium against VVS.
Spartan catcher, Ben Phelps, was able to make it all the way to third on the strength of a VVS error and a 4-3 groundout by Whalen, but that’s as far as he would get.
Red Devil pitcher, Zack Durant, fanned ZacK Kesterson to get himself out of trouble, while Spartan pitcher, Nick Maurizio, responded with a goose egg of his own to keep it knotted after one.
New Hartford’s struggle with runners in scoring position would again prove evident in the second, as Mark Chanatry would become the second Spartan to reach third, only to walk away empty-handed as DH, Cullen Moran, grounded out to retire the side.
With the New Hartford offense neutralized, VVS saw fit to strike first in the bottom of the inning.
VVS third baseman, Adam Nell, was also able to advance to third, then John Bickom drove him home, to give VVS a 1-0 lead that would hold for four innings.
As the decisive seventh inning approached, the teams stood still in a defensive stalemate.
VVS right fielder, Tim Beal, got the better of Spartan counterpart, Brad Moore, with a seemingly impossible diving grab in the fifth, and Red Devil center fielder, Dane Carlson, combined with Bickom at second base, to turn an impressive 8-4 double play to end the sixth.
But in the seventh, the floodgates finally opened for New Hartford. Steve Tomaino got the party started by reaching on a VVS error, and Ryan Faro came off the bench to bring him in for the tying run.
An RBI double by Moore and an RBI single by Whalen gave the Spartans a 3-1 lead, and put Maurizio in line to pick up the win.
With the lead firmly in his grasp, Kesterson took the mound and struck out the side, to pick up the save and keep New Hartford undefeated.
For his efforts through six innings of work, Maurizio was named the Cooperstown Bat player of the game.
At the plate, Mark Chanatry led New Hartford with two hits, while Moore, Faro, and Tomaino each crossed the dish for the Spartans. Nell, Bickom, Beal, and Julian Moffett each had a hit apiece for VVS, with Bickom picking up the RBI.
Proctor Baffles the Blue Devils
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The pitchers in Sunday’s second game would tell you that the adage “It’s not how you start, but how you finish,” could not be more true.
Starting pitchers, Ryan Crigger, for Proctor, and Tyler Kimball, of Camden both had their share of struggles early in a decisive first inning.
However, the performances of Crigger and Camden reliever, Scott Graham, over the final six innings truly stole the show, as Proctor prevailed by a 7-4 final.
Those who like offense need to look no further than the first inning. Camden’s bats wasted no time getting on the board, as the Devils hammered out three runs on four hits, while bringing eight of their nine to the plate before the side was retired.
Kimball, Austin Littler, and Nick Melchiore each scored a run for Camden.
Proctor however, was not about to let the Blue Devils have all the fun on their home field. The bottom of the second was a seemingly endless, offensive eruption for the Raiders, as they brought fourteen hitters to bat, and brought their first seven hitters home, to take a 7-3 lead.
With the damage done and two outs on the board, Camden skipper, Jake Bates, gave Kimball the hook, and brought Graham in, to retire the side and restore some sense of order in an otherwise chaotic, opening frame.
After a messy first inning, one would have expected the slugfest to continue. But those who did thought wrong, as the pitching from that point forward was virtually pristine.
After appearing in relief of Kimball, Graham pitched an absolute gem. The starting left fielder wrapped up the day with 5.1 perfect innings of baseball and six strikeouts.
Meanwhile, a similar performance by Crigger would keep Proctor on the winning side. The Proctor starter allowed one unearned run on one hit the rest of the way, allowed no hits in the final five innings of play and struck out just three while doing it.
Not only did Crigger pick up the victory for the Raiders, he was also the Cooperstown Bat Company Player of the Game.
Proctor’s Connor Roth and Camden’s Austin Littler were the only players to finish the game with multiple hits, finishing with two each.
Game Three: Notre Dame Stares Down Clinton, But Falls Short.
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Two teams with widely different expectations took to the field in the fifth and final game of the 2014 Stop DWI baseball classic.
The Clinton Warriors, a year removed from a trip to the state Class B title game, aspires to be back at the top this season and has yet to lose to a local opponent.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame is a young team still trying to find its way in the Tri Valley League, and entered the game with a 2-5 record. However, none of that mattered once the game started.
Starting pitchers, Joe Flynt (Notre Dame), and Jon Hardy (Clinton), started the game with two, serviceable innings for their respective sides.
Flynt saw just eight batters through two innings, and allowed just one hit. Hardy saw the entire ND order through two innings, but also pitched two scoreless innings.
While the scores were alike, Hardy was given the hook after just two innings for the Warriors, perhaps in an effort to ensure his availability in Tuesday’s showdown with undefeated New Hartford.
Whatever the case may be, his replacement, Anthony Hobika, was equally terrific. With a 1-0 lead in tow after Alex Dobrzinski scored on a passed ball in the third, Hobika threw four of his five innings of work in perfect fashion, striking out eight in the process.
The one run Hobika allowed in the fifth, would lead to suspense later on. Juggler shortstop, Brian Wojnas, set the table by reaching on an error, groundouts by Nick Rocci and Mike Golden moved him to third, and Matt Fitzgerald drove him home to tie the game up at one all.
That score would hold until the sixth inning of play, where once again, the passed ball would come back to hinder an otherwise spirited Juggler effort.
The inning started with a walk issued to Andrew Taft, who then stole second. Justin Jandke followed that by reaching on an error by Wojnas, to move Taft over to third, and that’s where the mistakes compounded.
Notre Dame catcher, Nick Rocci, committed passed balls with Hobika and Reuben Hernandez at the plate, which scored Taft and Jandke respectively, to give Clinton a 3-1 lead that held to the final out.
Hobika closed out the game with six consecutive strikeouts to seal the deal in a game where all three Clinton runs were scored via a passed ball, and became the only non-starting pitcher of the weekend to be named Cooperstown Bat Company player of the game.
In the loss, Flynt allowed just two hits for the Jugglers, and fanned three in arguably the best game Notre Dame has played this season.