BINGHAMTON _ If it hadn't all happened, you'd place it the same category with UFO or Loch Ness Monster sightings.
Just some fish tale, because it all seemed so unlikely for Oneonta High's baseball team on a gorgeous and breezy Thursday afternoon at Conlon Field.
First, a rally from six runs down and then from two runs down and then from three runs down, much of it against senior left-hander Austin Lewis, who'll perform on scholarship next season for Division II Le Moyne College.
And finally, an 11-10 victory for the program's first Section Four Class B title in a decade against a Chenango Valley team that embarrassed the Yellowjackets in last year's sectional final and went on to win the state championship.
Wait, it gets better.
The same guy who hit a tying three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning suffered a severe concussion and took the loss in last year's Section Four Class B final, a 10-2 victory for Chenango Valley.
"No doubt," OHS senior left-hander Mike Calkins _ author of the aforementioned home run _ said when asked if Thursday's classic was the best game in which's he's participated. "To be on this stage, losing sectionals last year ... we all put in so much work. I don't know of any team that put in this much work and it was because of this game last year. We didn't want to feel that again. We wouldn't give up."
Make no mistake, this was no work of art as the teams combined for five errors, eight walks and two hit batsmen.
"It wasn't the cleanest played game, but as far as exciting and people getting their money's worth, this is one of the most exciting and best baseball games I've been involved with," said 28th-year OHS coach Joe Hughes, whose team will play the Section Three champion in the Syracuse area in a Class B state quarterfinal Tuesday. "Obviously, any time you win a STAC or sectional title, they're big games, but this one had a special feeling to it because of the way we came back, who it was (we were playing) and what happened last year. I'm so proud of this group of seniors. I'd have to say it's one of the best games in OHS baseball history."
Chris Pindar's lined, one-out single to left off of Ryan Mack with the bases loaded scored winning pitcher Mark Giallanzo with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning as a mass of yellow-shirted Jackets rushed to greet Pindar in shallow right field. It capped a four-run rally.
"We never give up no matter how much we're down, no matter what the score is, we never give up on each other," Pindar said. "That's why we find a way to win the game."
The Yellowjackets (21-2), who last won a sectional title when pint-sized Tim Greeley hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the sixth inning of a 3-2 win over CV on June 1, 2002, appeared out of this one when the Warriors scored five times off of Calkins in the third inning.
In his last outing, Calkins struck out 17 and walked one in throwing his first varsity no-hitter, a 3-1 STAC semifinal victory over Horseheads two Saturdays ago. The Yellowjackets went on to defeat Johnson City, 10-2, to win their second straight STAC championship.
It appeared through two innings that Calkins was headed for another stellar outing, allowing one hit and striking out five.
OHS even staked him to a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Zach Pidgeon led off with a ground single to center. On an 0-1 pitch, Ben Payton failed to get a sacrifice bunt down. CV first baseman Robert Hess charged when Payton squared to bunt. Pidgeon ventured far off of first base as Warriors second baseman Trevor Henige sneaked behind him. Catcher Matt Personius threw behind Pidgeon and a good throw would have had Pidgeon easily. But Personius' throw sailed over Henige and into foul territory up the right-field line, allowing Pidgeon to take third.
After Payton struck out, Calkins grounded out to second to score Pidgeon.
CV (15-7), which lost to OHS for the third time this season, took advantage of two Calkins miscues en route to its big third inning.
First, Calkins walked No. 8 hitter Ryan Mack. Henige then hit a hard bunt just to left of the pitcher's mound. Calkins had a play at second, but picked his head up before securing the ball and dropped it. Then his throw to first went over Sean Getman, allowing Mack to reach third and Henige to advance to second.
Mike Fillers followed with an opposite-field single to right that scored Mack, and Chris Ruffo hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Henige to make it 2-1. Lewis then singled to right before Heller one-hopped the fence in right for an RBI double. Personius then hit an RBI single to center. Pindar charged it quickly and threw a one-hopper to Pidgeon to get Fillers at the plate for the second out.
Adam Greene capped the rally with an RBI single to right-center field.
In the first inning, Calkins and Lewis each hit 85 mph on the radar gun. But, Calkins said, he threw too many warm-up pitches before the game and felt tired entering the third inning. He started leaving pitches up, and CV's hitters took advantage.
Giallanzo relieved in the fourth, when the Warriors scored two more runs.
Ryan Mack singled with one out and went to second on a passed ball before Henige walked. Fillers then hit an RBI single to right, and the second run scored on a fielding error by first baseman Getman to make it 7-1.
Meanwhile, Lewis looked like the same pitcher who dominated OHS in last year's sectional final, when he struck out 13. Through four innings, he allowed two hits and struck out seven, offsetting his fastball with a nasty change-up. He continually got ahead of OHS hitters, including 0-2 counts on five of the last seven batters he faced heading into the fifth inning.
But Oneonta scored four times in the fifth on one hit.
Calkins led off with a walk. Conor Youngs then hit what appeared to be a double-play ball to shortstop Kevin Mack. However, Mack lifted his head on the grounder and the ball caromed off his left foot for an error. Giallanzo then walked to load the bases before David Wright was hit by a pitch to force in Calkins.
After Ben Moxley struck out, Pindar walked to score Youngs to make it 7-3. Getman's bloop single to shallow center scored Giallanzo, and Pidgeon's sacrifice fly to center plated Wright to make it 7-5.
"I'm pretty sure he got tired," Pindar said of Lewis' 32-pitch fifth inning, which bumped his pitch count to 92. "With all of his arm issues (Lewis missed several starts early in the season with a strained rotator cuff), he started getting tired and started throwing balls."
In the sixth, Calkins again led off with a walk. After Youngs lined out to left, Giallanzo singled to right. And when Wright's lazy, opposite-field fly to shallow left dropped just inside the line, the Yellowjackets had the bases full.
Moxley then hit a hard shot to short that took a wicked hop over Kevin Mack and into left field for a single. It brought home Calkins and Giallanzo to tie it at 7.
Lewis came back to strike out Pindar and got Getman to fly out to left, but as he left the mound, he had a long talk with CV coach Mike Allen. Lewis threw 114 pitches and wouldn't throw another.
The Warriors scored three times in the seventh. Hartwick College basketball recruit Heller singled to lead off. After Personius popped up a bunt to Giallanzo, Greene singled to center. Pinch-hitter Eric Silvanic then grounded into a fielder's choice to second, where Greene was forced out for the second out.
Ryan Mack bunted toward third and reached first as Heller held at third to load the bases.
It looked as if Giallanzo was out of the inning when he induced Henige to ground to short. The runners were going on the 3-2 pitch, and Ryne Rivino appeared to peek to see if could get the force at second. The ball caromed of his glove for an error that allowed Heller to score the go-ahead run.
Fillers then pulled a double to left that scored two runs. Left fielder Wright tracked the ball down at the fence and made a perfect relay throw to Rivino, who turned and threw a liner to Pidgeon. Henige made a head-first slide at the plate, but Pidgeon's tag just beat him to end the inning.
"It wasn't one of our better defensive games. We gave up some unearned runs, but we had two big relays to nail potential runs at the plate," Hughes said of throws by Pindar in the third inning and Rivino in the seventh. "Obviously, in an 11-10 game, those runs are pretty big."
Nick Deamer pitched the seventh for CV.
"I'm all about the kids. I don't want to win at all costs," Allen said of lifting Lewis for the seventh inning. "I've never won at all costs. I'll never do that to a kid."
Pidgeon started the seventh by stinging a one-hopper back at Deamer. It hit off the right-hander's right hip flexor and caromed toward short for an infield single. Payton then hit a boucing single to left, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Then on a 1-0 pitch, Calkins turned on an inside fastball, hitting a towering flyball that easily cleared the fence in right to tie the score.
"I had a pretty good feeling," Calkins said. "As much as I don't want to say it, I was kind of trying for a home run. You want to go for liners every time, but when you're down three and you know you're that third run ... I was just trying to hit a ball nice and far, and hopefully, they wouldn't catch it. With that short porch in right, I was just trying to put one in the air and see it go. It felt amazing."
Youngs grounded out to third before Giallanzo worked an eight-pitch walk.
Left-hander Ryan Mack then relieved Deamer and Wright pulled a single to right _ his third hit of the day and the fifth time he reached base. Moxley's ground single to center loaded the bases before Pindar delivered the winning hit.
"It's the best moment of my life," Wright said. "I've never been happier than right now. It was a great game to be a part of. We've had some great games this year and each one has gotten better, but this is the best win yet."
It marks the third sectional win for Hughes, who also guided the Jackets to a sectional crown in 1993.
Oneonta 11, Chenango Valley 10
SECTION FOUR CLASS B
Championship at Conlon Field, Binghamton
Chenango Valley ..... 005 200 3 _ 10 13 2
Oneonta ..... 010 042 4 _ 11 13 3
Austin Lewis, Nick Deamers (7,L), Ryan Mack (7) and Matt Personius. Mike Calkins, Mark Giallanzo (4,W) and Zach Pidgeon. 2B _ Robert Heller (C), Mike Fillers (C), David Wright (O). HR _ Mike Calkins (O).
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.
Beat defending state champs, 11-10, in Section Four final
BINGHAMTON _ If it hadn't all happened, you'd place it the same category with UFO or Loch Ness Monster sightings.
- Local Sports
OHS falls to Windsor in STAC tiebreaker
ONEONTA _ It turned so quickly. One moment Oneonta High appeared poised to take control in the sixth inning. About 10 minutes later, Windsor had a two-run lead.
Wainright lifts Panthers to T-V title
ONEONTA -- Linton Wainright got it done with his arm for Edmeston on Friday. His feet were pretty good, too.
Edmeston rides 4-hitter to T-V crown
The good news for the Edmeston softball team was a 5-2 victory over Milford in the Tri-Valley League championship game Friday at Oneonta State. The better news? Winning pitcher Catherine Johnson and batterymate Sarah Lawrence have yet to spend one day in high school.
Area Sports Briefs
Jelic leads OHS to 6th-place finish
Oneonta High's Jennifer Jelic earned a pair of runner-up finishes in the hurdles and helped the Yellowjackets' 400-meter relay team to a school record Thursday during the Southern Tier Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships at Union-Endicott.
Local Sports Results
Kelby cruises to title; Meno reaches crossover
Oneonta High junior Emerson Kelby had little trouble winning his second straight Section Four Class B tennis championship, dropping a total of five games over two days of singles play at Owego.
Section Four Tournaments
- Friday, May 17, 2013
Oh what a relief for Stamford
ONEONTA -- Matt Anderson struck out nine in four innings of relief to lead Stamford to a 13-10 victory over Downsville in the Delaware League baseball championship game Thursday at Field 6 in Neahwa Park.
Unatego wins MAC baseball title in seventh
Hits are overrated. No. 9 hitter Tanner Winchester rounded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning without the aid of a base hit Thursday, leading Unatego to a 5-4 victory over Sidney in the Midstate Athletic Conference 1-4 Tournament baseball championship game at Afton.
Gilboa runs away with first DL softball title
ONEONTA -- There's a first time for everything. Aggressive baserunning and an eight-hit attack led Gilboa to its first Delaware League softball championship as the Wildcats topped Windham, 7-1, on Thursday at Ted Christman Field in Neahwa Park.
Phillips strikes out 14 as Afton returns to top
Welcome back Afton. Four seasons removed from its last Midstate Athletic Conference softball championship, Afton rode a two-hitter from Cassidy Phillips to return to the top of the league with a 3-1 victory over visiting Hancock on Thursday.
Area Sports Briefs
Cooperstown stays perfect in softball
Senior pitcher Nicole Cring struck out five in a three-hitter Thursday, leading the Cooperstown softball team to a 9-1 Center State Conference victory at Sauquoit Valley.
Kids have sparkle in their eyes
When I was in my teens, old Bill Naatz told me about a stream north of Lake George where a man had panned out enough gold to make his wife a wedding band. It was all rumors, but to his grandson and myself, it sounded like the makings of a great adventure.
Thursday's High School Results
Foglia, Kleso win top Hartwick honors
Hartwick College honored junior women's basketball guard Maria Foglia and senior men's swimmer Kenny Kleso as its Athletes of the Year on Wednesday during the Hawks' Athletics Awards Ceremony in Lambros Arena.
- Thursday, May 16, 2013
Milford softball clinches East title
Kaley Chase and Natasha Skillen hit two-run doubles during a seven-run fourth inning that carried visiting Milford to a 10-7 softball victory at Richfield Springs on Wednesday that clinched the Tri-Valley League East Division title for the Wildcats.
- OHS falls to Windsor in STAC tiebreaker