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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 17, 2010
Dutchmen slide into second at state finals
By Jordan J. Michael
BINGHAMTON The Dutchmen baseball team got to the Class AA state title game on Saturday because it truly believed.
However, Guilderland didn’t win the championship because it ran into the Lindenhurst Bulldogs, a more talented team.
The Dutch had been racking up incredible wins in the post-season and did so again against McQuaid in the semifinal on Saturday at Binghamton University. The 8-to-3 win got Guilderland, which had been seeded sixth in sectional play, to the final, but the wheels came off after that.
The Dutchmen pitchers were stellar in the playoffs until Lindenhurst (Section XI) stepped to the plate. Eddie Pierce walked five Bulldog batters in the first inning after Jimmy Quinn made an excellent diving catch at shortstop for the first out.
“You have to throw strikes,” said Head Coach Doug LaValley after the lopsided 15-to-2 loss. “I thought Pierce was on, but he got off to a bad start.”
Pierce walked Jon McGibbon after Quinn’s catch and McGibbon was eventually caught stealing for the second out. The inning could have ended, but Steve Skon walked and Jimmy Briggs hit a single. Pierce walked Mike Roehrig to load the bases.
Dan Diblasi got a free pass from Pierce and that scored Lindenhurst’s first run. Briggs crossed home after a past ball and Pierce walked Alex Genao. The score increased to 4 to 0 after Ryan Manning batted in two runners with a bouncing single up the middle.
The Guilderland players and fans were shocked, and Pierce’s time on the mound was over.
LaValley said that his team came out “a little flatter” against Lindenhurst, but he said, “We make no excuses.”
Chris Gareau came in to pitch for the second inning. Again, Guilderland got the first out, but it was just a tease. McGibbon singled to right field and he scored off a double by Briggs.
Roehrig drove in a run with a single to right field and Diblasi reached first base safely with a perfectly executed bunt past Gareau. Genao stepped to the plate and cleared the bases with a double.
It was already 9 to 0, but the Bulldogs weren’t done yet. “We’re disappointed with the final score, but we played great to get here,” said Tyler Hynes. “We ran into the best team.”
It was tough to watch the onslaught in the second inning. Guilderland fans cringed after every Lindenhurst hit. Vin Valela squeezed out a double to center field for a 10-to-0 lead, and McGibbon drove in two more with another double.
Gareau was pulled, clearly distraught, and Zach Caplan came in to try to pitch out of the horrendous jam. But, Skon cracked yet another double that scored the 13th run of the game and the ninth of the inning.
Ultimately, Caplan struck out Briggs to end the terror.
Senior Matt Zanotta, who had an amazing hitting display for the Dutchmen in the semifinal, would trade all his hits for a state championship. “Everything we worked for was gone so quickly,” he said.
Lindenhurst pushed the score to 14 to 0 in the third inning, and Bulldog fans started getting cocky by betting on how high the score could go.
Guilderland was completely depleted, but had enough energy to score two runs in the fifth inning. The Dutch loaded the bases and Quinn brought the runs through with a single. Zanotta and Hynes battled, fouling off numerous pitches.
“We never quit,” said Hynes. “We always fight back.”
Assistant Coach Chris Yager told The Enterprise that it was amazing even to be in the championship game. It’s the furthest a Guilderland baseball team has ever gone.
“It was a great experience and we’re still bringing home a trophy, no matter what,” Yager said. “Everyone on the team believed in themselves so much.”
The Dutchmen came to Binghamton on Saturday with a wave of confidence and jumped on McQuaid, of Section V, early in the semifinal game, which started at 1 p.m. Plenty of fans made the two-hour trip to support the team.
Guilderland got a favor from the Knights’ starting pitcher, Nate Harris, who walked Quinn and Sean Geisel in the top of the first inning. Zanotta approached the plate and proceeded to hit a home run over the left-center field wall, giving the Dutch a 3-to-0 lead.
“There’s no place I’d rather be than here with my team,” Zanotta said later.
With Harry Brodsky on second base with two outs in the second inning, Geisel drove a pitch up the middle, allowing Brodsky to score. Then, Zanotta stepped up and hit another bomb to center field, but it stayed in the park for a triple, letting Geisel score.
“I got into good counts and just went after it,” said Zanotta, who cranked another two-run home run in the seventh inning to seal the victory for the Dutch.
“I threw him everything,” said Harris, who had heard of Zanotta’s power before the game. “I still wanted to go after him. Up and in. Low and away. Nothing worked. He won the game for his team.”
Guilderland was still threatening in the second and Luke Stark hit a single to right field that brought in Zanotta for a 6-to-0 lead. It gave Dutch pitcher Vinny Tamburello a nice cushion with which to work.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, McQuaid got on the scoreboard. Pat Kazley ripped a full-count pitch to center field, scoring Kent Kozar from third. Kazley reached third when a pop-up from Brendan Urlaub, dropped between Geisel and Mike Drislane in short center field.
Tamburello got out of the jam by striking out Dan Howard. Guilderland led, 6-1.
“The pitching got us here for the most part,” said Yager. “It was a long season.”
The game got interesting in the sixth inning when the Knights strung together a couple of hits to load the bases with one out. Urlaub did his job and hit a single to drive in Harris from third base.
The bags were still full for Howard and his sacrifice fly to deep center field let Kozar score, cutting the Dutch lead to 6 to 3. Paul Rusnak hit a grounder past a diving Zanotta at first base, but Geisel came up with the ball somehow, and threw the ball from his back to Tamburello, who was covering first.
It was a shocking play and the umpire called Rusnak out to McQuaid’s dismay. That ended the inning and Guilderland looked to have a spot in the final against Lindenhurst.
Ruined by rain
Right after Geisel’s game-saving play to end the sixth, thunder rumbled in the distance and the umpire crew called for a delay. Dark clouds moved over the field and a storm delayed the game for two hours.
After the pause, Pierce came out to close the door on McQuaid and he did, by retiring all three batters in a row. Guilderland had 30 minutes to prepare for the Bulldogs.
“It’s real hard to go back to back,” Hynes said. “It’s like we started a game three different times today. The rain killed our momentum, but we can’t make excuses.”
Yager said that the Dutch tried to relax during the two-hour delay by conversing and watching baseball on the bus. “These guys have been relaxed all year long,” he said. “Basically, we let them do what they want. They had their minds set.”
“It’s tough to decide a state championship with a double header,” said Zanotta.
Before the 2010 playoffs began, Guilderland always looked to the 2007 team for inspiration. Now, the players can try to capitalize on what the 2010 team accomplished.
“We’re the best because we got the furthest,” said Hynes. “We didn’t listen to all the hype. We put in all the hard work and went on a great run. It was a blast.”
Coach LaValley used the word “tremendous” to describe the Dutchmen’s season.
“We started to believe in each other and believe in what we teach,” LaValley said. “We learned a lot and played very well.”