ENDICOTT — Shenendehowa’s Evan Bean can verify that, yes, there was a first base on that diamond.
But other than his walk in the bottom of the sixth inning, McQuaid’s Hunter Walsh was perfect on the biggest stage of high school baseball in New York Saturday, beating the Plainsmen 5-0 for the Class AA championship at Union-Endicott High School.
Walsh, a senior right-hander who will play football and baseball at St. John Fisher next year, owned the outside of the strike zone with his fastball, and as a result, the top-ranked Knights from Section V were able to polish off a 24-2 season for the title.
“I’m speechless right now,” Walsh said. “It’s all a blur to me, that game. I’m just glad were able to finish the job that we’ve been wanting to do for so long. It’s awesome.”
The Plainsmen, meanwhile, will have to settle for an 18-8 season that went well beyond expectations.
“We were hoping to make the playoffs,” Shen head coach Greg Christodulu said with a chuckle. “You looked at it on paper, from where we were and what we graduated, and we were like, ‘Geez, if we can get .500, we can be in the playoffs this year.’
“To say at the beginning of the year we were going to be in the state championship game, I would say that may not be possible this year, and these guys just kept working and kept getting there and came together as a group. This is something they’ll remember forever.”
Relying almost exclusively on his fastball and backed by steady defense, Walsh threw just two pitches that were hit with some authority, a flyout almost to the wall by junior Jake Reinisch in the first inning and a rocket line drive the other way by Matt Mariano in the sixth.
McQuaid first baseman Charlie Merkley didn’t have to move a step to catch it.
Walsh struck out four and nearly lost his perfect game in the fifth, when shortstop Noah Campanelli bobbled a grounder off the bat of Nick Lemire, but Campanelli recovered, and his throw in the dirt beat Lemire to first base.
Then Mariano opened the sixth with his liner, followed by Bean’s walk on a 3-2 pitch. From there, Walsh struck out Sam Law looking, and Patrick McGuire grounded out to second to end the sixth.
In the seventh, Walsh got two groundouts to shortstop and a high flyout to shallow left field.
“He threw strikes, and I don’t think he threw over 70 pitches,” Reinisch said. “He just did a good job of getting ahead of our hitters and getting us down, so we he had defensive at-bats. That’s not what we want, we want to be up in the count, but hats off to him.
“There was really nothing to figure out. He was straightforward. He just did a good job of locating his pitches. We weren’t able to find holes, but sometimes it happens like that in baseball.”
“There was really no need for my curveball,” Walsh said. “I tossed it a couple times, but my fastball was working, and they were rolling over everything.
“No one told me [about the no-hitter], and I was kind of in the zone the whole game. I tried my best not to think about it. All game, I didn’t even care, I just wanted to win this game, and once our offense got going, I kind of knew, ‘We’ve got this.'”
The Knights got their offense going with two runs off Evan Jones in the top of the second, one in the third and two more in the fourth.
Drew Bailey led off the second with a sharp double down the third-base line, and after Ryan O’Mara walked, they each advanced a base on a balk.
Bailey scored Zach Lee’s dribbler toward third, and O’Mara made it 2-0 on a single by Patrick Xander.
Lee scored on a wild pitch in the fourth to make it 4-0, and Ben Beauchamp drove in Xander with a two-out double.
“Once we get this taste out of our mouths, I think we’ll realize we had a fantastic season,” Reinisch said. “New York state finals, that’s incredible. The last six games, starting with LaSalle, were won by coin flips. To win the first five, is amazing. I’m so proud of all of our guys. Everyone pitched in at some point during this run.
“We were a little caught off guard [by Walsh],” Christodulu said. “He wasn’t an off-speed pitcher. He threw the ball where he wanted to. We probably swung into his strength, where he kept the ball in the outer half and we kept rolling over it. We had one ball hit the other way, and we know you don’t win championships like that.
“The kids are going to hurt for awhile, and that means it means something.”
McQuaid 021 200 0 — 5 8 0
Shenendehowa 000 000 0 — 0 0 0