Bryan Warzek was the picture of efficiency Saturday night.
The Shenendehowa left-hander threw a one-hitter and struck out 11 as the defending champion Plainsmen beat Niskayuna, 5-0, in their Class AA baseball semifinal at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
The Plainsmen will play CBA in the championship game back here on Friday in a 7 p.m. start. The game will be the only sectional final matching the top two seeds.
Warzek allowed only a third-inning single to Niskayuna shortstop Pat O’Brien, and promptly picked him off. Warzek walked two and threw 105 pitches, 73 for strikes.
Niskayuna had just four batters reach base.
“I set a pace and didn’t stop. I like to pitch fast,” said Warzek, who got eight of his strikeouts on called third strikes. “One thing that you’re supposed to do as a hitter is break up the pitcher’s rhythm, but they let me just roll through.”
Left fielder Brennan McCormack got the big hit, a two-out, two-run single in the fourth inning that broke the scoreless tie. He enjoyed watching Warzek work.
“The game goes quick,” McCormack said. “You’ve always got to be ready. If you look in the stands, the pitch is already gone.”
Niskayuna starter Tommy Favata worked out of bases-loaded spots in the first and third innings before 21-1 Shen finally broke through in beating Niskayuna for the third time this season.
“I was hoping that because they weren’t scoring that many runs recently, maybe we’d get a 1-0, 2-0 game and pull it off,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey.
Favata escaped trouble in the first inning when he got John Novenche to fly out to right with two outs and the bases loaded. Center fielder Garrett Whitley unleashed a one-hop throw to the plate on Josh Hayner’s single, Shen’s third base hit of the inning, to hold Justin Yurchak at third base.
Warzek, who struck out the side in the first inning, gave Niskayuna a great chance in the second when he threw Carmen Caruso’s one-out comebacker past first baseman Novenche and down the right-field line, allowing Caruso to reach third base. He struck out Chris Wilk, then got Mike Gabriele to roll out to Novenche to keep the game scoreless.
Favata worked his escape act again in the third, and once again, he retired Novenche with the bases loaded to end the inning.
His luck ran out in the fourth, when McCormack lined an 0-1 fastball into left field to score Connor Douglas and Matt Bloise. Douglas had led off the inning with a walk, and Bloise singled him to second with one out. Favata then balked, pushing both runners into scoring position.
“We needed to get the offense going at some point. I knew when we got one across, we were going to roll, and that’s what we did,” McCormack said.
“I just wanted to hit the ball through the infield somehow, and I got a good pitch to hit.”
Warzek responded by striking out the bottom three hitters in the Niskayuna lineup in order in the Silver Warriors’ fifth, all on called third strikes, on 13 pitches.
“I knew this team can hit a fastball, but I did a good job keeping the ball down in the zone, and they couldn’t do much with the low fastball,” Warzek said.
The Plainsmen chased Favata in the fifth when Douglas laced a one-out double to left-center, moving pinch-runner Zach Sargent to third. Brian Toy came on to pitch, and got Brad Pearson to ground to second baseman Taylor Parks, but Parks threw wildly to the plate, allowing Sargent to score.
Kyle McAlonie made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly that scored Douglas.
“Tommy had his pitches in order and he was throwing them, pretty well, then it got away from him a little bit,” said Furey.
The Plainsmen added a run in the sixth, after again loading the bases with one out.
CBA got a two-run single from Alex Koshgarian in the bottom of the sixth inning to get past Columbia, 8-6. in the other semi.The Brothers jumped out to 5-0 lead after two innings, but Columbia pulled into a 6-6 tie with a run in the top of the fifth. Koshgarian delivered his two-run single the following inning.
SHENENDEHOWA 5, NISKAYUNA 0
Niskayuna 000 000 0 — 0 1 2
Shenendehowa 000 221 x — 5 9 2
Favata, B.Toy (5) and Spataro; Warzek and Pearson.
CBA 8, COLUMBIA 6
Columbia 001 410 0 — 6 7 2
CBA 230 102 x — 8 9 5
Sowards, Faas (2) and Walter; Wilson, Mitchell (4) and Herald.